Police have arrested a Pakistani citizen sought by his home country on suspicion of murder and terrorism. Interior Minister Jan Kubice told Czech Television on Sunday that the man had been arrested last week by detectives from the organised crime department of the police, and that he had applied for asylum in the Czech Republic. An international warrant for the man’s arrest had been issued by Pakistan itself, however, the ministry has not yet received any request for his extradition. Last week, Czech police announced they had arrested eight foreigners providing financial and material support to the radical Islamic organisation Shariat Jamaat of Dagestan.
Mr Kubice also told Czech Television that the police and fire departments lack money for December. The Interior Ministry will carry out an analysis to determine whether the services have the money to “survive” to the end of the year. Mr Kubice said that a shortfall would cause a massive security risk, as older and more experienced policemen, namely those aged 35 to 38 could resign. He intends to discuss the situation with the prime minister and finance minister. Members of the security services had their wages decreased by several percent this year after 8.4 billion to the ministry’s budget.
Czech political and military figures commemorated the 66th anniversary of the end of the Second World War on Sunday. A ceremony was held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the hill of Vítkov, in Prague. The playing of the national anthem was followed by a minute of silence and a three-gun salute. Soldiers and politicians then laid wreathes in memory of the fallen. President Václav Klaus conferred honorary names upon four army units and later in the day appointed new generals of the army and customs administration.
Trade unions are calling for new, detailed negotiations with the government on reforms. The unions are threatening protests and strikes in the absence of changes to the reform proposals. Some 2,000 people protested the reforms in Prague on Saturday; another demonstration is scheduled for May 21 on Prague’s Wenceslaus Square. The head of the Czech-Moranian Confederation of Trade Unions, Jaroslav Zavadil, says the unions do not want to hear anymore that changes are impossible because of the government’s policy statement. They say they may decide on further concrete measures on Monday at a meeting of their council.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said Sunday that certain members of the Constitutional Court are biased. Speaking to TV Prima on last week’s court decision that struck down a government tax on building savings, Mr Nečas referred specifically to Judge Eliška Wagnerová, who compared the finance minister’s method of presenting the bill to methods used in Nazi Germany. Mr Nečas said the comparison “boggled the mind” and that in Western European states she would be forced to consider her resignation. The prime minister also allowed that the Constitutional Court’s “activism” in some cases led to legitimate debate. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka called the accusation of bias unacceptable.
A poll conducted by the SANEP agency suggests that more than two-thirds of Czechs agree with the Constitutional Court’s decision on the government’s building savings tax. Roughly 70% of respondents supported the verdict, which cancelled a special 50% tax rate on deposits from state support. The court found the law unconstitutional in that it retroactively affects contracts signed under the previous conditions. The poll also suggested that a large majority do not agree with President Klaus’ criticism that the court is politicised. 53% see the court as an entirely independent institution.
The streets of the Czech capital on Sunday belonged to thousands of runners from around the world who participated in the annual Prague International Marathon. The first to cross the finish line in the men’s race were three Kenyans led by long-distance runner Benson Kipchumba Barus, who set a new personal record at 2:07:08. Second place was taken by Kenneth Mburu Mungara and third by Samuel Kiplimo Kosgei, who was in the race for the first time. The women’s race was won as expected by Kenyan Lydia Cheromei, who set a new track record at 2:22:34, breaking that of second place contestant Helena Kirop, also of Kenya.
The president’s deputy chief of staff Petr Hájek disgraced the Czech Republic with his comments on the death of Osama bin Laden, says Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Mr Schwarzenberg released a statement to the press saying that Mr Hájek’s comments - that the life and death of the terrorist leader was a work of media fiction - insulted an ally and the head of an allied state, brought adverse attention and disgraced the good name of the Czech Republic. Speaking to the Czech Press Agency from a trip to Northern Africa, the foreign minister said he was not responding to diplomatic pressure from the United States for an apology, but was simply “pissed off”. President Klaus eventually distanced himself from the remarks, saying on Wednesday that they had not been thought through. Petr Hájek has frequently suggested that the attacks of September 11, 2001, were orchestrated by the United States itself.
Several thousand people demonstrated against the restriction of marijuana use in Prague on Saturday. An estimated 6,000, mostly young people marched through city centre to a park in Žižkov, dancing and distributing cannabis seeds, to support the legalisation of cannabis for medical and recreational use. Organisers asked the government to respect their rights by decriminalising the drug and its users. The protest is the fourteenth of its kind this year in Prague. Czech law currently allows possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana.
Another demonstration is taking place in Prague on Saturday to protest government reforms. Several hundred people are expected to gather at Jan Palach Square to protest the right-wing coalition’s health, welfare, pension and tax reforms. Organisers say the new laws would worsen the quality of life in the Czech Republic and disrupt social cohesiveness and solidarity. The gathering is supported, amongst others, by the confederation of trade unions, which has threatened strikes, and the national council for disabled persons.
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