Police have charged three driving examiners and the head of a driving school east of Prague with abuse of authority by a public officer and other crimes, anti-corruption police unit spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej revealed on the unit’s website. The four are suspected of having helped more than 30 people obtain valid driver’s licenses, either by helping clients during their driver’s exam, or allowing them to miss the exam altogether, filing protocol on their behalf. The owner of the driving school, meanwhile, allegedly promised a client they could skip mandatory driving lessons altogether. The suspects in the case operated in Přelouc, near Pardubice, and Nový Bydžov, in the area of Hradec Králové.
Outgoing Czech Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek will be questioned by police investigators next Friday in connection with a case against his former first deputy Vladimír Šiška who is accused of bribery. Mr Drábek revealed the development on a TV political debate show Sunday. The minister is resigning over the matter although he reiterated he himself had done nothing wrong but was simply accepting political responsibility. He will officially step down at the end of the month. The chairman of TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg, has suggested the corruption case could negatively impact the party in the upcoming regional and Senate elections, but expressed the hope that the minister’s decision to step down would be viewed honourably.
Friends and supporters of human rights activist and well-known anarchist Jakub Polák, who died in September at the age of 60, gathered in Prague on Saturday to honour his memory. Around 100 people met at Prague’s Střelecký ostrov: the event was called “Antipohřeb” or anti-funeral. The event saw performances by Roma bands as well as speeches by friends. The late Jakub Polák was a staunch defender of Roma rights, helping residents facing eviction from a local slum in Ostrava-Přívoz. In 2001, Mr Polak was honoured by the Charter 77 Foundation for his long battle against prejudice and police apathy in cases of racially-motivated murder in the Czech Republic.
A parade known as ‘Roma Pride’ took place in Prague on Sunday afternoon celebrating Roma culture. The group organizing the event aimed to inform the public on the situation regarding minorities in the country, charging that the government’s integration policy had failed in areas. The group has also warned about rising anti-Roma sentiment. The parade began at 3 pm local time at Palacký square and made its way to the historic Old Town Square; a discussion was scheduled after the event. Roma Pride was slated to take place not only in the Czech capital on Sunday but also in 14 other European cities.
A commemorative plaque honouring late anti-communist resistance fighter Milan Paumer was unveiled in a special ceremony on Saturday in the courtyard of the castle in Poděbrady. Mr Paumer died was part of the controversial Mašín group that shot its way out of communist Czechoslovakia in the 1950s, claiming several lives; he died two years ago at the age of 79. The ceremony on Saturday included a performance of classical music, as well as songs by Barbara Streisand and Věra Špinarová and the Czech anthem. Notable military historian Eduard Stehlík suggested that the commemorative plaque might be the first dignified memorial to a Mašín group member in the country.
Around 70 right-wing extremists demonstrated near boardinghouses inhabited by Roma residents in Ústí nad Labem on Saturday. Riot police prevented far-right supporters from clashing with anarchists, although the groups taunted each other verbally. Later, there were reportedly some minor incidents at a local train station. A local representative of the radical right-wing Workers’ Party for Social Justice is running in the upcoming regional election; far-right demonstrators have met routinely over two years to try and drum up support based on anti-Roma sentiment.
Police have arrested three individuals, aged 25 or 26, suspected of blackmailing a 23-year-old man in Modřany in Prague 4. The suspects are believed to have broken several bones in the man’s body to force him to sign a bill of exchange worth several hundred thousand crowns. The victim has alleged the trio also threatened him with a weapon; if found guilty in the case, the three suspects could face up to 10 years in prison.
President Václav Klaus, in an interview for the Czech daily Lidové noviny, has said the government, through its actions, had only itself to blame for the loss of a comfortable majority in the Chamber of Deputies (formerly 118 mandates). The president suggested that the prime minister and other members of the centre-right cabinet needed to reflect on their manner of governing but denied he was laying obstacles in the government’s path. In the interview, Mr Klaus reiterated, for example, that pension reforms he recently vetoed were highly controversial and should be reconsidered. The president’s comments come a day after a new poll suggested that support for Petr Nečas’ centre-right government had fallen to an all-time low of just 17 percent.
Preliminary tests, conducted on blood samples in Prague, have ruled out methanol poisoning in the case of a 60-year-old Czech man admitted to hospital in Cheb on Saturday morning. Poisoning was suspected after the patient collapsed in the emergency room, his nose bleeding; doctors were later informed the man had drunk around half a litre of spirits, vodka and plum brandy, the evening before. The patient, once stabilised, was transferred to a hospital in Sokolov. Some 80 people in the Czech Republic suffered methanol poisoning since September 14th after drinking laced bootleg liquor; almost 30 of them died. The outbreak forced the government to declare temporary partial prohibition and tough new measures.
Late president Václav Havel would have been “caught off guard” if he could have known that Prague’s international airport would be renamed in his honour, former close aide Ladislav Špaček has said. Mr Špaček told the Czech news agency on Friday, following the official renaming, that the former president, who died last December, had no longer thought he was important for Czech society, and would have been surprised by the expression of loss and respect his passing aroused. The renaming of the airport in Ruzyně to Václav Havel Airport Prague (Letiště Václava Havla Praha in Czech) took place at noon on Friday - the 76th anniversary of the Mr Havel’s birthday; numerous politicians, celebrities and members of the public attended. The current president, Václav Klaus, and the prime minister were notably absent.
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