A married couple shot dead while carrying out a bank robbery in the German city of Karlsruhe were from the Czech Republic. The husband, who was 44, was shot dead by the police, while the wife, 42, is believed to have turned her gun on herself. The DPA news agency reported that German police believe the two were responsible for a series of bank robberies over a period of 15 years, netting around EUR 2 million. They had been nicknamed the "gentlemen robbers" for the polite way they treated their victims. German websites reported that it was a miracle no passers-by were hurt in Friday’s shootout, which occurred in a pedestrian zone.
Transport Minister Vít Bárta has stood down as election manager of Public Affairs at a two-day policy conference in Prague. Mr Bárta is regarded as the most powerful member of the party. Public Affairs entered the lower house – and government – for the first time after elections at the end of May. However, they saw a significant fall-off in support in recent local and Senate elections. Public Affairs’ leader Radek John, a former TV journalist, said on Saturday that the party would work harder to promote their views in the coalition government, of which they are the smallest member.
An elementary school which considered putting Romany pupils into separate classes has won a prize for promoting the integration of the Romany minority. The Masaryk school in Valašské Meziříčí made headlines a year ago for floating the idea of teaching Romany and majority population children separately. However its director in the end decided to keep them together, employing assistants to help weaker pupils. The jury in the Gypsy Spirit awards praised the head’s courage in resisting pressure, and providing proof that integrating Romanies into society is possible.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, advised her Czech counterpart Petr Necaš that the Czech Republic should adopt the common European currency, lidovky.cz reported. The exchange took place while Prime Minister Necaš was on a visit to Berlin in September, the news website said. Mr Necaš has refused to confirm whether the conversation took place. The Czech Republic committed to joining the euro when it became a member of the EU. However, there is no firm date by which it has to enter the eurozone, and the government has no target date for doing so.
The Czech Communist Party faces a fine of CZK 40 million after backing out of a deal to sell its headquarters in the centre of the Czech capital to the Italian company Poste Re, Právo reported. The decision was reached by a Prague court in October, the newspaper said. The Communists say they will appeal the verdict. It is not the first legal dispute involving the party’s HQ on Politických vězňů St, which is parallel to Wenceslas Square; the Communists won a case taken by Czechoslovak Rail after they purchased the now-run down building from the state rail company in 1990.
Cold weather has evidently claimed its 12th victim in Prague this winter, the Czech News Agency reported. The body of a 48-year-old man who was believed to be homeless was found in a car on Vítězné náměstí square in the Dejvice district on Saturday, a police spokesperson said. The rescue services said a post mortem would determine whether he had frozen to death. The cold has killed 10 people in the capital since the start of December alone.
World War II veteran Josef Hercz died in Prague on Thursday at the age of 93. He served with the Czechoslovak army in Tobruk, Libya, where he was injured, before later fighting at the Battle of Dunkirk with the Czechoslovak brigades based in Great Britain. In a statement the minister of defence, Alexandr Vondra, said name of the former soldier and doctor had been written forever into the history of the Czech army. Brigadier General Hercz was for several years the deputy chairman of the main Czech veterans’ organisation, and won high state honours both in the Czech Republic and France.
The president of European football’s governing body UEFA says he is not opposed to the idea of a joint Czech and Slovak football championship, recreating the league that existed before the two states split in 1993. Speaking after a UEFA meeting in Prague, Michel Platini said that while he did not regard the suggestion negatively, it did need further thought. Mr Platini said other countries were also considering combining their championships. A spokesperson for the Czech football association said a joint league would make both states stronger in terms of TV rights, players and European competition. Discussions about the practicalities of a merger are underway.
The Czech Republic have taken the bronze medal at the Floorball World Championships in Helsinki, after beating Switzerland 9:3 in a third-place decider on Saturday afternoon. The Czechs’ star player was Tomáš Chrápek, who scored two goals and made one assist. Silver at the 2004 Floorball World Championships was the only time the Czech Republic had previously taken a medal in the tournament.
The Chinese ambassador to Prague refused to accept a gift from Amnesty International for the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Liu Xiaobo. Four representatives of the human rights organisation attempted to hand in flowers and a card at the Chinese embassy after an awards ceremony in Oslo on Friday which Mr Liu was unable to attend. He is serving an 11-year jail term for voicing opposition to the country’s communist regime, and is a signatory of Charter 08, a human rights manifesto modelled on Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77. Elsewhere on Friday, which was international Human Rights Day, members of a Czech NGO held a lamp-lit procession to draw attention to Mr Liu’s case in Prague.
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