A Prague court on Friday remanded in custody a senior aide to two former Social Democrat prime ministers on charges of pocketing EU funds and blackmail. The charges against Zdenek Dolezel and also Ladislav Peta, mayor of the town of Budisov, and Miloslav Rehulka, an Agriculture Ministry employee, were brought on Wednesday. The three men were accused of having siphoned off tens of millions of Czech crowns of EU and state funds from a project to renovate Budisov castle. They are also accused of blackmailing a Czech architect, Marek Ricar, who alerted police to the alleged fraud. According to media reports, the three were preparing to hire a killer to assassinate Jan Kubice, head of the special police squad for uncovering organised crime. Mr. Rehulka was also taken into custody while Mr. Peta was taken to a hospital for medical attention; his lawyer told reporters that Mr. Peta has cancer, and was due to start treatment in hospital on Friday.
A new poll by the Factum Invenio agency suggests over 50 percent of Czechs believe that the Senate, the upper house of the Czech Parliament, is quite a useless institution and should be abolished. The trend has been visible ever since 1996 when the Senate was established. However, the number of those believing that it is a useful and beneficial institution has slightly increased. The first round of Senate elections in one third of the constituencies will be held next weekend.
In the same case, police on Friday charged former deputy local development minister Vera Jourova with corruption. Ms Jourova was arrested shortly after her plane landed at Prague-Ruzyne airport on Friday afternoon. Ms Jourova was a member of the Social Democratic Party for three years. She voluntarily ended her membership on June 5 after she left the post of deputy local development minister. According to former PM and party chairman Jiri Paroubek, Jourova used her membership as a "lift" for her career.
The foundation stone of a new headquarters for Prague-based US-funded radio station, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was laid in the Czech capital on Friday. The broadcaster's current headquarters is in the centre of Prague and the station together with the city authorities have been discussing its moving since the September 11 attacks on the US. The Congress-funded radio station broadcasts in 28 languages to some 20 countries in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia. Founded in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War, the broadcaster moved to Prague from Munich, Germany, in 1995 to take advantage of an offer to house it in the former Czechoslovak parliament building in the city centre.
President Vaclav Klaus has met with leading representatives of the
Christian Democrats, Jan Kasal, Vlasta Parkanova, and Ludmila Mullerova
to begin consultations regarding the formation of a new government. On
Friday afternoon, Mr. Klaus told reporters that he intends to only
support a possible government whose agreement shows that it will bring
stability to the political scene. The president indicated that
approving a government that would be dependent "on one deserter" to
calculate 101 votes in the lower house is not in the cards. Mr. Klaus
added that an agreement between parties should either produce a stable
solution, or lead the country to early elections.
Mr. Klaus will continue meetings with other leading politicians next week. The Civic Democrats are due to meet with the president on Monday afternoon, and the Greens on Tuesday. No details regarding scheduled meetings between Mr. Klaus and the Social Democrats have been released. The Communist Party leadership has also not received an invitation to Prague Castle.
On Friday, Radio Prague launched digital broadcasting within the DRM
(Digital Radio Mondiale) system. The broadcasts can be heard in the
central and south-eastern Europe areas. English and German broadcasts
are from 13.30 to 14.30 UTC on Friday and from 13.00 to 14.00 UTC on
Saturday on the frequency 9505 kHz from a transmitter in Rampisham, UK.
DRM is digital broadcasting which should in the future replace analogue broadcasting on LM, MW and SW. Its main advantages are higher quality signal - close to FM quality - and a reduction in transmitter output. At the moment DRM broadcasts are more or less of a test character because commercially produced receivers are not available, just prototypes. DRM broadcasts can also be picked up by PC using special software (see www.drm.org).
A 30 year-old woman and her six month-old infant are in serious condition in a Plzen hospital. Tragedy struck on Friday morning when the woman, carrying her baby, walked onto the tracks ahead of an oncoming train in the Plzen district of Bolevec. Investigators say that the woman left a letter behind and intended to end her life. Mother and child are being treated, but no further information has been released.
A court in Prague 1 has sent all three men—Zdenek Dolezel, Ladislav Peta, and Miloslav Rehulka—accused of high-profile blackmail and corruption behind bars. Mr. Dolezel is the former head of the prime minister's office. The charges against Mr. Dolezel, Mr. Peta, mayor of the small south Moravian town of Budisov, and Mr. Rehulka, an Agriculture Ministry employee, were brought on Wednesday in connection with suspected corruption in the handling of EU structural funds channeled via the Local Development Ministry, and the blackmail of architect Marek Ricar who reported the planned fraud to the police. Both Mr. Dolezel and Mr. Rehulka have been taken into custody and transported to a holding cell, while Mr. Peta was taken to a hospital for medical attention; his lawyer told reporters that Mr. Peta has cancer, and was due to start treatment in hospital on Friday.
Police report that an attempt to smuggle two Ukrainian nationals from the Czech Republic into Austria was thwarted on Thursday afternoon. The 49 year-old male and a 52 year-old woman were discovered hiding in the trunk of a car bearing German plates, as it attempted to cross the border into Austria near Znojmo, south Moravia. The driver of the vehicle is identified as a 39 year-old Turkish national, who is currently in custody and charged with human trafficking; if found guilty he faces up to one year in jail. Border police discovered the couple in the truck of the car after noticing that the vehicle's rear was riding low, despite there being only one visible person inside the car. The Ukrainian nationals, who say that they took a bus from Ukraine to Brno, where they were met by the trafficker, are also in custody and awaiting deportation from the Czech Republic.