Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told the press on Wednesday that he would not be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. A spokesperson for the prime minister made the announcement, adding that Mr Topolánek’s decision came in the light of discussions held with other members of the cabinet. Mr Topolánek said at the end of March that it was up to his cabinet to decide whether he should attend after controversy surrounded China’s crackdown in Tibet and spurred calls for an Olympic boycott. Head of state Václav Klaus has also said that he will not attend the Olympics, though this is because he is due to be undergoing surgery in Prague at the time. Prague mayor Pavel Bem and minister for education, youth and sport Ondřej Liška have also declared that for ideological reasons, they will not be going to the summer games.
Police in North Bohemia have detained a man whom they believe desecrated the graves of hundreds of Holocaust victims at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp Terezín last week. The man, who has not been named, is accused of stealing over 300 bronze name plaques from the graves of the Holocaust victims. On Thursday, a spokesperson for the culture ministry said that a suspect had been detained and that the bronze plaques had been recovered. The police were unwilling to give any further details, and declined to say whether charges would be brought against the owner of the scrap yard who bought the plaques from the perpetrator. If found guilty, the man charged could face up to eight years in prison.
The United States is investigating the possibility of situating interceptor missiles on Czech soil instead of in neighbouring Poland, writes the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Thursday. The US originally wanted to build an anti-missile defence shield in both Poland and the Czech Republic, with the Czechs set to house a radar tracking device, and the Poles the corresponding interceptor missiles. But, according to the Polish newspaper, US negotiations have stalled in Warsaw, and now America is investigating the possibility of housing the entire anti-missile system in the Czech Republic. The paper writes that Prague has not ruled out housing the entire system, but has voiced its preference to play host to the radar base alone.
Seven representatives of church and state, including President Václav Klaus and Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, are gathering in Prague’s Saint Vitus’ Cathedral on Thursday to unlock the chamber in which the Czech crown jewels are stored. The chamber only opens when all seven keepers of the keys unlock seven different locks at once. The Czech crown jewels will then be put on display for the general public for 11 days in Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall. At the request of the late King Charles IV, the crown jewels are only put on display on special occasions. They are being brought out on Thursday to mark the 90th anniversary this year of an independent Czech state, as well as President Václav Klaus’s reelection.
The Czech police will be drafted in to help their Swiss colleagues at the 2008 European Football Championships, interior ministers from both countries announced on Thursday. A joint statement said that Czech police would be sent to Switzerland to help the Swiss security bodies with their work. The police forces will cooperate on matters of security before and during the tournament, co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria from June 7 – 29. The number of Czech police to be sent was not disclosed. Czech interior minister Ivan Langer agreed to a similar cooperation with Austria last November.
A man has died after falling from a window at Prague’s Charles University. An ambulance arrived on the scene six minutes after the incident occurred, but the man, who has only been identified as a 25-year old Slovak, was already dead when the rescue services arrived. It is uncertain whether the man was a student at the university or not. A police spokesperson said that suicide could not be ruled out.
Czech car manufacturer Škoda Auto said on Wednesday that it could more than double production to around 1.5 million cars within 10 years. In a letter sent to the news agency AFP, Central Europe’s biggest car producer said that it planned to be producing 1 million cars annually by 2012. Production last year reached more than 660,000 cars, a 14.5-percent rise compared with 2006. It is thought that most of the increased production could come from India, China and a new facility in South America.
Slavia Praha clinched the Czech ice-hockey cup on Wednesday night, after beating Karlovy Vary 4-2 in game seven of the playoff finals. The game was played out before a record crowd of 17,123 people in Prague’s O2 arena. Karlovy Vary were the biggest surprise of the season, having never made it to the playoffs before and going on this year to beat regular season winner České Budějovice in the semis. But on Thursday, Slavia Praha were just too strong, and won the playoff series by four matches to three.
The Czech Prime Minister as well as Health Minister Tomáš Julínek have been giving testimony at the Czech Republic’s Constitutional Court, defending the government’s implementation of doctor’s visitation fees. The court action comes as a result of moves by the opposition Social Democrats to have the fees declared unconstitutional in that the Czech constitution guarantees free-at-point-of-use healthcare. Prime Minister Topolánek argued that both patients and the state had benefited from the introduction of doctor’s visitation fees of 30 crowns in January. In a blow to opponents of the fees, the court suspended hearings indefinitely following the testimonies. Analysts have suggested that the court’s judges are divided on the issue.
The Czech Court of Appeals has confirmed an earlier ruling which clears former policeman Tomáš Čermák of violently assaulting Green MP Kateřina Jacques. The alleged assault occurred in May 2006, when Ms Jacques took part in an anti-Nazi demonstration in Prague. During the demonstration, Ms Jacques was beaten to the ground by Mr Čermák, although he denies that excessive force was used. Mr Čermák was subsequently charged with abuse of police authority, although the charges were later dismissed by a Czech court. Mr Čermák has argued that intervention against the Green MP was warranted because she was partaking in an unauthorized demonstration. He has also accused Ms Jacques of staging the incident in order to gain sympathy for the Green Party, charges which the Green MP has dismissed as ridiculous.