An ultra-conservative citizen’s initiative, D.O.S.T., has delivered an open letter of protest to official supporters of an upcoming gay rights march in Prague. Initiative leader Ladislav Bátora, who is also an advisor to the education minister, called upon Prague Mayor Bohuslav Sobota and American Ambassador Norman Eisen on Monday to renounce their support for the Prague Pride march, saying the protestors’ demands go beyond the limits of tolerance. Mr. Bátora, who once stood as an independent candidate for the now-defunct far-right National Party, also criticised the ambassador for “meddling in the internal affairs” of the Czech Republic. Last Friday, President Václav Klaus backed comments made by his deputy chief of staff, Petr Hájek, who referred to homosexuals as “deviants”. On the same day, thirteen ambassadors to Prague, among them those of Germany, the UK, the United States and Denmark, signed a joint letter expressing their support for the marchers.
President Klaus and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg have both criticised the embassies for forming their support for the parade as a petition. In a statement published by Prague Castle on Monday, the president called the ambassadors’ letter an unprecedented encroachment into an internal political discussion and said they should know that the debate is not about whether or not the Prague Pride march should be allowed, but whether it should be held under the auspices of the mayor of Prague. Mr Schwarzenberg addressed the letter on the Foreign Ministry website, where he writes that it is counterproductive and excessive for the ambassadors to support rights that no one in the Czech Republic either denies or rejects.
Also regarding Mr Bátora, an association of WWII political prisoners and their descendents has asked Prime Minister Petr Nečas to review supporters of extremist opinions in the Ministry of Education. In an open letter to the prime minister, the association says that available information shows Mr Bátora to be a proponent of anti-Semitism and fascism who has consorted with neo-Nazis. A series of associations including Amnesty International, the Czech Helsinki Committee and Romea have made similar complaints in recent days. Education Minister Josef Dobeš has defended his advisor, calling him a conscientious nationalist and Catholic. Bátora himself says that his security clearance itself shows he is neither an extremist nor a racist.
Local residents of the Šumava National Park have again entered into the fray between environmental activists and loggers. A group of locals on Monday used tractors to block activists’ road access to a protected zone of the forest where the park management has authorised logging in order to combat a destructive bark-beetle infestation. Loggers in the meanwhile were able to begin work on some 5,000 trees marked for felling. Police have also reported that two of the activists were detained and their climbing equipment seized. Around 20 activists reached the forest later on and blocked one of the access roads. Environmentalists have been staging such protests for several weeks now, arguing that the park management does not have the needed permits to cut in the forest; a preliminary court order has however allowed logging to continue.
The prime suspect in the murder of writer Simona Monyová, her husband Boris, is in critical condition, apparently after a suicide attempt, and will likely not be interrogated this week. One of the best-selling authors in the Czech Republic, Ms Monyová was stabbed to death on Thursday in her home in Brno, reportedly after a domestic dispute. TV Nova has reported that her husband threw himself from a window after the attack, but landed on a car. He then returned to the flat and injured himself with a knife before jumping out of the window again, the station reports. Friends of the couple have publicly speculated on a history of domestic abuse in the household, however, police say they do not yet know the motive for the murder or the cause of the suspect’s injuries. The hospital says he is in critical but stable condition; some media outlets have reported him to be in a coma.
Unemployment numbers in the Czech Republic were up in July for the first time since the beginning of the year, the Ministry of Labour has reported. Labour offices registered 485,584 unemployed persons for the month, which is 6809 more than in June and raised the unemployment rate for the country by .1% to 8.2. Despite that, the ministry reports the highest number of jobs since the summer of 2009. The highest unemployment rate was in the western town of Most, at 15.9%; the lowest was in East Prague, at 3.6%.
Social Democrat chairman Bohuslav Sobotka is in talks with former chairman Jiří Paroubek to convince him to remain in the party, the daily Právo reports. Mr Sobotka told the paper on Monday that he had met with his predecessor regarding his threat to form a new political party in the autumn and asked him to stay, as he has no policy or other differences with the party. After initial reports that the former prime minister was looking to restore the Czech National Social Party, Mr Paroubek announced last week that he was working with a team of people to form a new political entity altogether.
The Prague transit authority, Dopravní podnik hl. m. Prahy, is negotiating the sale of three metro stations: Českomoravská, Vysočanská and Kačerov. The city is reportedly also considering the sale of the Florenc metro station. The company reported Monday that it has concluded memoranda with the companies Crescon and Asset bloom. The Prague City Council approved the plan to sell the stations for the sake of their reconstruction in 2010. The plans for the new stations should include shops and services and integrate them more with their environs.
Composer Jiří Traxler, called the co-founder of Czech swing, died on Sunday in his home in Canada at the age of 99. Particularly active in the 1930s and early 40s, Traxler’s songs have been sung by generations since and have survived to today. He moved to Canada in 1949 in response to the rise of communism in Czechoslovakia and briefly worked with the public radio broadcaster there before turning to work as a draftsman in Quebec.
Thirty-two-year-old Czech tennis player Radek Štepánek has won the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, his first tournament title in just under two years. The un-seeded player defeated opponent Gael Monfils of France in straight sets: the final score was 6:4, 6:4. The singles title is the fifth in Štepánek’s career, after wins in San Jose, Rotterdam, Brisbane, and Los Angeles. His trainer, Petr Korda won the Legg Mason Classic back when he was a player. Štepánek is the second-oldest player to ever win the championship, after the legendary Jimmy Connors did it at the age of 35 back in 1988.
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