Former communist functionary Karel Hoffman, who recently began serving
a four-year prison sentence for treason, has been released on the
grounds of ill health. A Prague City court ruled in favour of his
release on Friday after consulting a new medical report put forward by
prison doctors. The 80-year-old Hoffman had been found guilty of
treason and sentenced to four-years in prison for having ordered public
radio broadcasts to be halted at the time of the Russian-led invasion
of Czechoslovakia in August, 1968.
Mr Hoffman was the oldest prisoner in the Czech Republic and his health is said to have seriously worsened in recent days. In total, he spent twenty-five days behind bars.
The driver of a truck that collided with a vehicle belonging to ice hockey
coach Ivan Hlinka in August, resulting in fatal injuries, has been charged
with grievous bodily harm resulting in death. It is the second time police
have filed the same charge against the driver, following a formal mistake
the first time around. Nevertheless, a measure of controversy regarding
the case remains, with the public prosecutor criticising police
investigators for allegedly making mistakes at the accident scene; a major
Czech daily has also claimed police failed to take note of important
details connected with the crash.
Ivan Hlinka died in hospital in Karlovy Vary on August 16th, some time after his car was struck head-on.
The Slovenian-owned Czech-based travel agency Globtour announced
financial insolvency on Friday, apparently leaving dozens of Czech
tourists stranded abroad. Globtour cited "indifference" on the part of
its parent company as the reason for its financial straits. The Czech
insurance company where Globtour was registered has already begun
taking steps to bringing Czech tourists home from abroad.
Meanwhile, thirty-six clients who were supposed to set-off for package holidays to Montenegro on Friday were not dispatched.
Tests have confirmed a 14th case of BSE, or mad cow disease, in the Czech Republic. The infected animal comes from a farm in southern Bohemia. Close to a hundred heads of cattle will have to be put down within the safety measures ordered by the State Veterinary Office. Since 2001 the Czech Republic has tested some 650,000 heads of cattle. The first case of BSE appeared in 2001 when the Czech Veterinary Office ordered the testing of all slaughtered animals over the ago of 30 months. Up until then vets tested only high risk groups.
The Czech foreign ministry is considering tightening security measures for embassy staff in Iraq after the car of the Czech ambassador to Iraq Martin Klepetko came under fire on Wednesday. The ambassador himself was not in the car at the time of the incident. The two bodyguards travelling in it were unhurt. The car was allegedly stopped at a roadblock by a group of armed men in the residential Al-Mansur neighbourhood, not far from the ambassador's residence. Another group then immediately opened fire. The armoured car was hit by at least thirty bullets. A spokesman said the Czech Foreign Ministry was cooperating with Iraqi police to determine if Wednesday's attack was directly aimed at the Czech ambassador.
The former communist politician Karel Hoffman may be released from prison shortly, due to his deteriorating health. The eighty year old Hoffman was recently found guilty of treason and sentenced to four years in prison for having ordered public radio broadcasts to be halted at the time of the Russian led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August of 1968. Hoffman's health is said to have seriously worsened in recent days, resulting in a proposal to the medical commission that he be released from having to serve the rest of his prison sentence.
On the occasion, both Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Education Minister Petra Buzkova paid surprise visits to several schools and encouraged the students to take their studies seriously. Mr Klaus stressed the importance of learning not one but two foreign languages, while Mrs Buzkova, in a traditional annual radio address, assured children that in a few years they would consider their school years as the best period in their lives. She also promised teachers that she would stand firm in parliament to support unpopular reform in the education sector.
The father of two boys who, along with four other minors, have admitted to killing an 81-year-old woman, has also been charged with the murder of the pensioner. On August 12, the six young boys - five of them under the age of 15 - planned to rob the pensioner at her home in East Bohemia. When she resisted, they stabbed her to death with scissors. The boys were driven to the scene by the 34-year-old Vladimir Gina, who faces a prison sentence of at least 10 years if found guilty.
In southern Moravia, some thirty teachers have filed a law suit against the Czech state at the Constitutional court in Brno. The teachers claim the government had failed to fulfil a promise in its policy programme to provide the education sector with more finances and increase teachers' salaries. The current situation, they say, threatens the level of education in the Czech Republic and therefore violates the citizens' right to a good education.
The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, held talks with his Czech
counterpart, Cyril Svoboda, on a visit to Prague on Tuesday. Mr Straw, in
the Czech capital to address a meeting of Czech ambassadors, said fears of
problems in the UK with immigration from new member states after European
Union enlargement had proved unfounded. He also said the Union should open
accession talks with Turkey; Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said
he is in favour of closer links with Turkey, and possibly its membership
of the EU.
As well as meeting Mr Svoboda and Mr Gross, Britain's foreign secretary held talks with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and future European commissioner Vladimir Spidla.