Presidential candidate Jan Švejnar announced on Friday that his father has dealt with Czechoslovak secret police in the past. He allegedly signed a pledge in 1961 to cooperate with the Ministry of Interior while he was employed at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and he was to attend a U.N. scientific conference abroad. The envisaged cooperation was terminated a year later. Jan Švejnar has decided to publish his father’s file on his website in order to prevent someone from using the documents to discredit him.
The Social Democratic Party has threatened to reject the law on property settlements between the state and the church if the government coalition didn’t discuss the bill with them and didn’t agree on a compromise solution. Under the deal, a third of church property confiscated by the communist regime will be returned to its original owners and compensation will be paid for the rest. The compensation was set at some 83 billion Czech crowns (approximately 4.7 billion US dollars). It is to be paid out over the next 60 years at a rate of interest set a 4.8 percent, with the overall figure expected to reach some 270 billion crowns.
Former Czech president Václav Havel’s state of health has much improved and he is expected to be out of hospital in the days to come. The head of Prague’s Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine made the announcement on Friday evening. Mr Havel was originally supposed to be released on Saturday. Václav Havel, who is 71, was hospitalized on January 19 with chronic bronchitis and a heart problem. Due to his hospitalization, he missed the premiere of Citizen Havel - a documentary film made in his honour.
A Prague police officer charged with the stabbing to death of an American man in the city on Tuesday night was not taken into custody. A Prague court has rejected the proposal made by the state attorney’s office. The 27-year-old officer, who was drunk and off-duty when the incident happened, reportedly attacked the 44-year-old American after a fight broke out over they way the victim had parked his car. The incident took place near the Sazka Arena in Prague 9.
A unique multi-purpose operating theatre with magnetic resonance for neurosurgical operations was inaugurated in the Central Military Hospital in Prague’s district of Střešovice. The event was attended by President Václav Klaus and Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek. The construction of the operating theatre cost some 300 million crowns (or 17 million US dollars). Such equipment only exists in another two places in the world – in Belgium and Arizona.
Czech Miss 2008, one of the biggest Czech beauty pageants, is set to take place on Saturday night at the departure hall of Prague’s Ruzyně Airport. The future Czech Miss will be crowned by French actor Alain Delon, who will also preside over the jury. The country's second big beauty pageant - Miss Czech Republic - will be held in March.
Carnivals are taking place across the Czech Republic this weekend, marking the beginning of Lent, the 40 day period of fasting that precedes Easter. Towns and villages, as well as individual Prague districts, organize carnival processions and parties out in the open with live bands and meat feasts. One of the biggest events has taken place at Prague’s Old Town Square.
Czech Speed skater Martina Sáblíková has finished second in the 15,000 metres race at the World Cup event in Italy’s Baselga di Pine on Saturday. Canada’s Kristina Groves took gold. Sáblíková has twice been crowned world champion and holds the world record in the 5,000 metres. This is the first time she has reached the podium in the 15,000 metre event.
A new institute dedicated to the examination of the Czech Republic’s communist past has opened in Prague. The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes brings together secret police and military intelligence files which were previously in the hands of various state institutions. The files, which amount to millions of pages, will be accessible to both historians and members of the public. The Czech Republic is one of the last post-communist states to create such a body.