During the course of this weekend, the presidential residence of Lany near Prague is opening its doors to the public. The Prague Castle administration decided on the open door event to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the purchase of the Lany chateaux, which is the official residence of the head of state. During the course of the past 50 years, the baroque chateaux has only been opened for public viewing twice, during the months of March and September 2000.
The Czech capital, Prague, is under a high-alert security watch. At an
extraordinary overnight session that began at 23:00 on Friday night, the
Czech cabinet decided to increase security measures in the capital
city—effective immediately—because of a possible terrorist threat.
Prague's Ruzyne airport has implemented what are being described as
"massive security measures," though no flights have been
cancelled. The city centre and other possible targets are also being
patrolled by additional specialized police units, and the police chief
says that there is no need to call for the army's assistance at this time.
On Saturday morning, Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer said that it is
the first time that the Czech Republic faces such a concrete threat.
Shortly after the measures were announced, a bomb threat was called in that resulted in the closure of Prague's metro line 'C' for about an hour. No explosive was found.
The daily Pravo's on-line service, Novinky, writes that the terrorist threat is related to the Jewish New Year, and that Prague's Jewish district of Josefov likely faces the most serious threat. Speaking at a press conference, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said that he would neither deny nor confirm the reports. Authorities have said that the situation in the Czech capital is connected to Friday's developments in Norway, where four men were arrested and police are said to have uncovered a terrorist plot to bomb the Israeli and American embassies in Norway.
Svatopluk Karasek has been dismissed as the government's human rights commissioner. In an interview for the daily Pravo, Mr. Karasek said that he was dismissed without reason, and the paper notes that the Civic Democratic cabinet did not make the information public at its regular press conference following the Wednesday decision. Reacting to the news at a press conference on Saturday, Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek said that while he and Mr. Karasek did not always get along and are not men of the same blood, Mr. Karasek did his job well since being appointed in November 2004. Mr. Karasek has been replaced by former Civic Democratic MP Jan Litomisky.
The new American Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Richard Graber, has arrived in Prague. A forty-nine year old lawyer, Mr. Graber studied at Boston University. He has appeared as a commentator on the popular US news show Larry King Live, and prior to his diplomatic appointment Richard Graber led the Republican Party in Wisconsin and acted as spokesman for President George Bush during the election campaign of 2004. Mr. Graber succeeds William Cabaniss as the US Ambassador in Prague.
Lucie Hradecka and Renata Voracova have won the women's doubles at the
WTA tournament in Portoroz, Slovenia. The victory came effortlessly as
a member of the opposing team, Emilie Loit of France, had to withdraw
from the final after injuring her wrist in the semifinal match.
Meanwhile, the Czech national team has earned a place in the Davis Cup rankings thanks to a dramatic match played in the Netherlands. Victorious in a key men's doubles match, Czech players Tomas Berdych and Martin Damm defeated the Dutch duo of Peter Wessels and Rogier Wassen in 3:1 sets, 6:7 (4:7), 5:7, 7:6 (7:2), 6:7 (4:7).
In an interview for the Saturday edition of Prazsky Denik, former Social Democratic prime minister Milos Zeman says that he will not support the current Social Democratic leader, Jiri Paroubek, at the next party congress due to be held in spring 2007. Mr. Zeman says he made the decision to withhold his support for the party's current leader after Mr. Paroubek addressed him harshly on Thursday, saying that Mr. Zeman should behave as a regular member of the Social Democratic Party, and refrain from receiving other leading politicians as guests at his home. Tensions flared after news of the current Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty's visit to Mr. Zeman earlier this week Mr. Zeman, who lent his support to Jiri Paroubek in the spring general election campaign, says that he will no longer assist the Social Democratic Party—a party he helped build in the 1990s.
Tomas Butta has been elected as the new patriarch of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. Mr. Butta won the requisite number of votes in the first round, with 375 of 557 in his favour. The new patriarch will be sworn in at a ceremony on September 28 in Prague's St. Michael's Church on the Old Town Square. Tomas Butta was born in 1958 in Prague and became a priest of the Hussite Church in 1984. The Czechoslovak Hussite Church is the third largest religious institution in the Czech Republic, with about 100 000 members.
In related news, Gijs de Vries, the counter-terrorism coordinator for the European Union, has called for the lifting of US visa restrictions for all the EU newcomers, including the Czech Republic. Mr de Vries pointed that the US was the EU's number one partner in the fight against terrorism, while speaking at a conference on the subject in Prague on Friday. Mr de Vries said that the understood US concerns over safety but stressed that an equal approach was needed towards all EU citizens.
A Prague court has rejected a request by businessman Tomas Pitr, asking for the deferral of a five year prison sentence he was handed down for tax fraud. As reason for the deferral Mr Pitr cited the birth of a new child - a reason rejected by the court. The businessman was sentenced for improper tax payment dating back to 1994. He has asked for a new trial, a matter that the court will look into in November.
A new poll conducted by the STEM agency has suggested that a majority of Czechs would like to see early elections. June's national election ended in a parliamentary stalemate, producing only a minority government that has not yet been tested in a vote of confidence. A total of 62 percent of those polled in the survey replied they were "in favour" of early elections, while 38 percent said they were "against". The current cabinet led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has pledged to hold office only in an interim period and to push for elections in the spring of 2007. The government faces its confidence vote on October 4th, but it is widely expected not to pass. According to some observers, at most the government can expect an even split in the vote, leading to the government's resignation.