The upper house of Parliament has given up Social Democrat Senator Jiří Lajtoch for investigation regarding fraudulent tenders. Police suspect Mr Lajtoch, who is also the mayor of the town of Přerov, of arranging privileges during local construction tenders and abusing the authorities of a public official. Another 12 people are under investigation in the same case. Of the 68 senators present, 41 voted to satisfy the police request to strip Mr Lajtoch of his immunity. Senator Lajtoch denies any wrongdoing.
Culture Minister Jiří Besser has rejected the objections of senators to the integration of the Prague State Opera and the National Theatre. Mr Besser says that the transformation of both institutions is not only needed but is inescapable due to reasons of economics and programming. Taking advantage of a small opposition minority in the upper house, a majority of senators have signed a petition labelled the plan inappropriate, ill-conceived and unreasoned. The culture minister says that the criticisms are based on false information. Employees of the Prague State Opera insist on the two institutions being separate and say the plan is based on the ministry’s economic rather than artistic interests.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas accepts the possibility of creating a supreme judiciary council with which the government would consult the appointment of judges, their numbers and possibly the sector´s budget. After a meeting with judiciary representatives on Thursday, Mr Nečas said that the judiciary branch of the state is often left out of communications between the legislative and executive branches, and that the council could help make it more of a fully-fledged part of the three powers that form a democratic state. Judges would like the judiciary council to be more than a mere consultative body. Supreme Court chairwoman Iva Brožová said the establishment of the supreme council would be the first step on the road towards the judiciary´s higher self-rule.
A new poll suggests that the Social Democrats would win every region in the country, with the exception of Prague. According to pollsters SANEP, TOP 09 would win in the capital if elections were held today, while the Civic Democrats would come in second overall. The junior coalition party Public Affairs crossed the 5% parliamentary threshold only in Prague, which would not however be enough to secure a seat in the lower house. The Christian Democrats on the other hand would be back in the running, crossing 5% in eight independent localities. That party was voted out of Parliament in last year’s elections for the first time in modern Czech history.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a vocal opponent of the global warming theory, has left for a conference tour of Australia during which he will present his views on the issue. Mr Klaus will not hold any political talks while spending almost two weeks in Australia, which has led the local papers to speculate that the Czech president is being cold-shouldered by Australian politicians over his controversial views. The president’s office said Mr. Klaus's trip was purely academic and its cost was being covered by the Australian Institute of Public Affairs, an institution that presents itself as an independent think-tank. President Klaus will reportedly also meet with the Czech community in Canberra.
Thousands of books are being moved from the Clementinum, which houses the National Library, after an accident left parts of the building flooded. The library has not said whether the cause is related to the heavy precipitation of recent days. More than 4,000 historical and foreign volumes had to be evacuated and the reference centre closed on Thursday as water ran into offices and gallery spaces. The water was quickly pumped away however the shelves are soaked. The affected areas will be opened again on August 8.
A police officer has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in a string of bank robberies. The Police Inspectorate told the Czech Press Agency on Thursday that the man, who has been dismissed from the force, is believed to have robbed a bank near the western town of Teplice on Monday and to have also been responsible for at least three other heists. The robberies are reported to have causes damages of more than one million crowns. On Monday the suspect tried to drive away from the bank with some 400,000 crowns but was stopped by a prepared police squad. The 36-year old was a policeman for 13 years.
A report released on Thursday by the association Social Watch for the year 2010 criticises the Czech Republic for welfare and other reforms that it says could threaten low-income with poverty. The report also points to tax evasion, corruption in public tenders and a low ratio of women in top politics. The report says that government reforms in education, health care and the pension system actually entail cuts aimed at privatising public services, which is the biggest threat to the social prosperity in the country. Social Watch is a civic association that focuses on poverty eradication and gender justice in the world.
Detectives from the organised crime unit of the police have reported that eleven people were arrested and charged at the end of June on suspicion of organising sham weddings. The police believe that foreigners paid the group in order to illegitimately acquire residence permits in the country through marriage. All eleven – of which four are Nigerian and the rest are Czech – are being charged with participation in organised crime and aiding illegal residency in the Czech Republic. If convicted they face between two and ten years’ imprisonment.
Persistent rains have raised the water levels of rivers around Bohemia. Warnings are in place throughout the western half of the Czech Republic, with high alerts in the regions of Liberec, Plzeň and Ústí nad Labem. Minor damages have been reported in those regions, consisting mostly of flooded gardens and cellars. In Western Bohemia, 75 children were evacuated from a summer camp due to flooding while in Prague the Vyšehrad station of the metro was closed for several hours on Wednesday when water seeped into the technical control room.
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