Two Czechs who were found guilty of a 74-million crown robbery have been arrested in Thailand. The two young men were sentenced to ten years in prison by a Czech court but only served a year of that sentence before the former justice minister Daniela Kovářová ordered their temporary release on the grounds of a complaint pertaining to an alleged violation of their rights. By the time the matter was investigated and Kovářová’s successor Jiří Pospíšil reversed the order, both men had disappeared. The two men were arrested on an Interpol warrant with the help of Austrian police.
Public Affairs deputy chair Michal Babák has withdrawn his candidacy for the party’s top post. Babák broke the news on Saturday saying that the media attacks against his person were harming the junior coalition party. The deputy chair has been unable to satisfactorily explain the origin of six million crowns he donated to the party, giving rise to speculation about shady financing. The party is expected to elect a new leader next weekend. The current chairman Radek John will be defending the post, other candidates are Karolina Peak, head of the party’s deputies club, and MP Dagmar Navratilova. The party’s unofficial leader Vít Bárta originally announced his candidacy but later withdrew it urging party members to unite under Radek John.
The Muller company, a multinational producer of dairy products, is pulling its milk-rice pudding off the shelves after slivers of glass were found in some of the products sold. The Czech Food Inspection Office said it had received a fast-alert warning late Friday. The warning concerns milk-rice with cinnamon and cherry flavour, as well as the natural variety with an expiry date May 23rd. Over twelve thousand cases of these puddings were imported to the Czech Republic and have been put on sale.
Farmers say the bout of freezing cold weather in early May will severely damage this year’s fruit harvest and may bring some farmers to the brink of bankruptcy. Fruit growers with apple, plum and cherry orchards say the damage is the worst in several decades with fruit trees on close to 7,000 hectares of land cut down in their bloom. Close to 40 percent of Czech fruit orchards have been affected with farmers predicting a poor harvest or none at all. Local fruit processing companies could also feel the brunt. Fruit growers say they want to approach the Agriculture Ministry about the possibility of some form of assistance.
Thousands of people on Saturday took the opportunity to inspect the historic premises of Prague Castle which are usually off-limits to the public. Thousands queued up since the early morning hours to see the castle’s interior, including the Spanish Hall, the Throne Room and the Mirror Hall. Visitors can see where the presidential elections take place, which rooms former presidents favoured and the dining room used to host banquets for visiting royals and heads of state. The Office of the President opens these premises to the public only on special occasions. The next opportunity to view them will be on October 28, a public holiday marking the birth of independent Czechoslovakia in 1918.
A twenty-five-year-old Czech man is reported to have been killed in a freak accident in Sofia, Bulgaria when the balcony he was standing on with two companions collapsed under them. The two young women were injured, one critically. The cause of the accident is being investigated. The ctk news agency which reported the death, said that next to the modern new constructions that have been springing up since the fall of communism, there are many derelict buildings in the capital in urgent need of repair.
Dethroned by Sweden in Friday’s semi-finals the Czech Republic’s national ice hockey team has swallowed its disappointment and is gearing up for Sunday’s match against Russia in which they will be playing for the bronze. The Czechs who were out to defend their title, were beaten 5:2 by Sweden, visibly losing steam after the first period. It was the team’s first defeat at the tournament. A disappointed Jaromír Jágr said later that the team had taken fallen prey to euphoria and taken their victory for granted.
Ukraine on Friday expelled two Czech diplomats amidst allegations of spying. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said two staff members of the Czech military attache's office had been declared personae non gratae in the former Soviet republic. The foreign ministry said a strongly worded protest was sent to the Czech ambassador over the expelled diplomats’ use of diplomatic status to gather information that is a state secret in Ukraine. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said in reaction to the news that he believed the move was made in retaliation for Prague’s decision earlier this year to award asylum to Ukraine's former economy minister Bogdan Danylyshyn, who has been charged with abuse of power.
Former transport minister and de-facto leader of the junior Public Affairs Party Vít Bárta has apologized to President Václav Klaus for the manner in which he spoke about him on a secretly recorded tape which was leaked to the press this week. On the tape, made during an informal meeting of the party leadership, Bárta boasts of his influence over president Klaus, saying he can make him do anything he wants and that Mr. Klaus’ door is always open to him. The former president Vaclav Havel is also mentioned with Bárta saying that that particular sphere of influence is covered by former journalist and official party leader Radek John –and that the two of them together have the ear of both the present and former presidents. Mr. Bárta said on Friday he was very drunk on the given occasion and had grossly exaggerated in order to impress the party.
Both the current and former presidents have reacted to the recording. President Klaus said there was no need to respond to empty boasting, noting that he was far more concerned about the fact that a secretly recorded tape was once again an instrument in political warfare. The former head of state Václav Havel has asked not to have his name dragged through the mud in party infighting. Mr. Havel’s assistant said the former president was not in any way involved in present day politics, made no attempt to interfere in political life and that his occasional contacts with Radek John were restricted to social occasions.
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