News 9:21, Thursday, DECEMBER 6th, 2001 

By Jan Velinger

*Uzbek opposition leader Mukhammed Salikh has still not been released
*The Czech Republic's smallest commercial television station, TV 3, has resumed broadcasting
*Bill Gates, the head of the famous U.S. software company Microsoft has visited Prague

Uzbek opposition leader not yet released
The Czech Justice Ministry has received official documents from the Uzbek judiciary concerning Mukhamed Salikh, the Uzbek opposition leader who was detained at Prague's Ruzyne airport last week on an Interpol arrest warrant. Czech officials said the information would be assessed and the case would be examined in a preliminary enquiry. The Czech Republic must decide whether to extradite Mr Salikh to Uzbekistan, or to allow him to return to Norway where he has been granted asylum. On Tuesday the Czech Foreign Ministry said that Mr Salikh's release was "almost certain", but it now appears that the procedure may take longer. In recent days the Czech Republic has come under intensive pressure from human rights groups, who claim that Mr Salikh's conviction in absentia for a 1999 bombing was politically motivated. They say Mr Salikh could face torture or even death if Prague returns him to Uzbekistan.

License holder: TV station will be back on air within 24 hours
The holder of TV 3's terrestrial broadcasting license Martin Kindernay has made good on his promise to begin broadcasting from a new studio - four days after the station went off the air. Wednesday, TV3 began broadcasting just before midnight, from studios in Hradec Kralove and Prague belonging to RTV Galaxie, a company Mr Kindernay owns. The traditional TV3 logo, however, was missing from the upper right corner of the screen, replaced by a title reading TV3 Hradec Kralove or TV3 Prague. So far the station has broadcast news and music videos. In November Mr Kindernay and foreign investors became embroiled in a legal dispute that prompted the investors to begin broadcasting from a different studio, as they awaited the Czech Radio and TV Council's decision on whether their broadcast was legal. On Sunday the council advised TV3 to go off the air or face a million crown fine for pirate broadcasting, in effect giving Mr Kindernay the authority to begin re-broadcasting as the legitimate licence holder. License agreements require Mr Kindernay to continue relying on TV3's service organisation for up to 50 percent of programming.

Havel vetoes controversial bill on religious organisations
President Vaclav Havel has vetoed a controversial bill on religious organisations and their relationship to the state. Mr Havel said the bill could encroach on the Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms, by banning religious organisations from running their own hospitals and other social services. One paragraph in the bill, which stipulates that church charities must re-register separately from the churches themselves and are accountable to the Interior Ministry, particularly angered the Catholic Church, which argues that charities are an integral part of their activities. Supporters say the bill merely puts charities in line with Czech legislation.

Microsoft's Bill Gates in Prague
Bill Gates, the head of the famous U.S. software company Microsoft, has visited Prague and has met with Czech parliament members including speaker Vaclav Klaus as well as the ministers of finance, transport, foreign affairs, and education. Mr Gates discussed European Union enlargement, the government's plans to create a wholly professional army, global security issues tied to the September 11th attacks on the U.S., and the latest trends in electronic business. Mr Gates also held meetings with software developers and local business leaders, and also with the Czech Republic's president, Vaclav Havel.

Korda plans comeback
The Czech tennis player Petr Korda is to come out of retirement this week, one year after a failed comeback on the ATP men's tennis tour. The former Australian Open champion will play John McEnroe, Henri Leconte and Jeremy Bates for this week's indoor veterans tournament at London's Royal Albert Hall. Korda's failed comeback last year followed a one-year ban for using the illegal substance nandrolone at the 1998 Wimbledon championships.

St. Nicholas, devil and angel take part in town council debate
The small town of Sternberk experienced an unusual council meeting on Wednesday evening, when St Nicholas, a devil and an angel ended up taking part in a budget debate. St Nicholas - Mikulas in Czech - visits the nation's children on December 5th each year. Accompanied by an angel and a devil, he hands out fruit or candy to good children, and coal and potatoes to those who've been bad. Reports say Sternberk council members had not exceeded their budget, and were not carried off to hell.

Thursday will be cloudy with rain showers - temperatures are expected to hover at around 2 degrees Celsius in Prague.

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