Opponents of a planned US radar base in the Czech Republic – part of a proposed US missile defense shield in Europe – gathered in a demonstration on Saturday in the Czech capital. By police estimates several hundred met in Prague’s Malá strana district to make their way to the US Embassy. Organisers’ estimates were higher: around 1,200 present. Earlier, the demonstration - organised by the No to Bases initiative - received backing from the opposition Social Democrats as well as the Communists. A number of well-known opposition politicians – including former foreign minister Jan Kavan – also took part. Protestors reportedly demonstrated not only against the US radar on Czech soil but also against continued military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Monday the Interior Minister Ivan Langer is to present plans to the government on increasing the number of specialists in the country’s counter-intelligence service. They will focus on counter-terrorism as well as the financial and economic sectors and IT security, the daily Právo reports. According to the paper’s Saturday edition, the proposed expansion should bolster the service by some 50 individuals. Právo writes that Mr Langer’s report does not state specific reasons for the increased threat of terrorism in the Czech Republic; some analysts say the increased threat is related to the possible stationing of a US radar base on Czech territory.
The leader of the Christian Democrats Jiří Čunek is to meet with US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber in the coming days to discuss the US State Department’s annual report on human rights released earlier this week. The report specifically mentioned Mr Čunek in his approach to the Roma minority when he was the mayor of Vsetín several years ago, as well as a corruption case he was linked to last year. US Ambassador Graber responded to a letter sent by Mr Čunek - in which the Czech politician pointed to alleged inaccuracies in the US report; an exact date for the officials’ meeting has not yet been set.
A 35-year-old Czech national who was arrested in London last December on suspicion of a series of rapes, faces between 15 years in prison to a life sentence in Great Britain, if found guilty. The news was released by Prague police spokesman Tomáš Hulan on Saturday. The Czech suspect has been charged with eight counts of rape. He was detained late last year as the result of successful cooperation between Prague police and their British counterparts. Czech police first investigated reports of two women who had returned to the Czech Republic from the UK and testified last autumn they had been repeatedly threatened with violence and raped by the suspect. Prague investigators, together with London’s Metropolitan Police, are continuing to gather evidence.
A new poll released by the STEM agency has revealed a drop in popularity for four out of five parties in Parliament, with the Communists the only party retaining steady numbers of 10.7 percent. According to the survey, all other parties, including the ruling Civic Democrats, would suffer a drop in votes. If an election were held today the opposition Social Democrats would come first with just over 30 percent of the ballot. The poll projects the ruling Civic Democrats would finish second at 24.2, followed by the Communists, then the Greens at 9.9 percent and the Christian Democrats at 5.3 percent. According to STEM, recent voter disillusionment has roots in last month’s presidential election, which divided parties backing different candidates.
The Czech Pharmacists’ Chamber has estimated that some 80 percent of around a million packs of medicine containing pseudoephedrine were abused for the production of the illegal drug pervitin, a methamphetamine, last year. The head of the chamber revealed the information on Friday. The amount of medicine abused is reportedly sufficient for up to one tonne of the illegal substance. The head of the National Anti-Drug Centre Jiří Komorous criticised the over-the-counter sale of medicines containing pseudoephedrine as “unacceptable”. Under current legislation pharmacies can refuse to sell anyone medicine if they suspect it might be used illegally.
Czech Post revealed on Friday that construction workers had accidentally uncovered 60 bags of mail lost between the years 2001 to 2006, forgotten in an unused rail tunnel in the south eastern town of Břeclav. The mail, sent from abroad, never made it to intended destinations. A spokesman for Czech Post described the case as “shocking”, adding police were now looking into the case.
Women’s tennis legends Steffi Graf and Martina Navrátilová relived some of their most famous past match-ups in an event called Dream Match 2008 in Tokyo - the first time the two had faced off in 14 years. The match (a one-setter with seven games) went to a tie-breaker, with Graf edging Navratilová 8-7. Afterwards the 51-year-old Navrátilová admitted she had always considered the German player one of her toughest opponents; she compared the experience of facing Graf again to “going back in time”.
Hockey forward Aleš Kotalík scored the final goal in a cannonade of
goals by the Buffalo Sabres against the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins on
Friday. Buffalo won 7-3. Kotalík scored with just three minutes left in
the final period to cap Buffalo’s win.
In other action on Friday, goalie Tomáš Vokoun turned away 32 shots to help the Florida Panthers down the New York Ranger 3-2. Florida have now won their last six games.
A court has put Prague Castle and the adjacent St Vitus’ Cathedral under administration at the request of an Italian company which says the castle’s operators owe it around one million crowns (the equivalent of 62 thousand US dollars). The Castle Administration is appealing the ruling. The head of the president’s office Jiří Weigl told Czech Radio on Friday there was no threat of a forced sale of Castle property, saying the necessary funds were available to cover the debt but the Castle Administration is waiting to see if the Supreme Court upheld the latest ruling. The dispute goes back to 2001, when the firm GEMA Art took part in an exhibition on Renaissance and Baroque artists.