Leading Civic Democrat and Deputy Prime Minister Vlastimil Tlustý has suggested that the government’s church restitution plan may be illegal. The comments represent a serious blow to the government plan to compensate the church for confiscated property under the communist regime. The proposals were pushed by the coalition Christian Democrats and highlight continued infighting within the fractious coalition. Specifically, Mr Tlustý stated in an interview with Czech Television that the way the government had calculated the property or financial compensation which the church is set to receive is against the principles which underpin the concept of restitution and may be illegal. Mr Tlustý has been a consistent critic of the current plan, last week joining forces with the opposition Social Democrats and several other Civic Democrat MPs to put the brakes on the proposals as they currently stand.
A Czech soldier who returned on a special flight from Afghanistan along with three colleagues remains in a critical condition, according to the Czech government. All of the soldiers arrived from Afghanistan on Saturday evening aboard a special flight, which also carried the remains of a colleague killed in the country. Three of the soldiers were subsequently released from hospital, with the fourth remaining in intensive care. A military spokesperson has stated that the Czech soldier’s condition remains critical. All of the soldiers were struck by a roadside bomb in the province of Logar, to the south of Kabul. So far, three Czech soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the International Security Assistance Force was formed in late 2001.
The Czech Culture Minister Václav Jehlička has stated that there is no money to build the controversial new national library designed by Jan Kaplický. He noted that 1.9 billion Czech crowns are available for the building, while Kaplický’s design would cost around four billion crowns. Speaking in an interview on Czech Television, Mr Jehlička stated that he could not approve a project for which there was no money. Critics have noted that the delays in building the library have themselves increased the potential costs. The comments by the Culture Minister represent another blow for the prospects of the controversial “blob” as it has been nicknamed, ever being built.
Members of a Czech commando unit who violently assaulted a young man last weekend in the town of Tábor have escaped major punishment by the army and will instead have their pay docked and will also be unable to serve in the future. On Saturday, the man recovered enough to speak of his ordeal for the fist time. The twenty one year-old man was attacked in a pub after the military officers mocked his long hair and love of rock music, according to testimony given by the man. The youngster was then bundled into a car and stripped naked before being severely beaten by the army officers. The army has refused to apologise for the incident, stating that the officers were off duty and are thus not responsible for their actions. However, a separate criminal case brought by the man could see the former officers jailed for up to eight years.
A Boeing 737 was forced to make an emergency landing on Saturday evening after a stray bird was sucked into one of its engines. Following takeoff, the plane circled above Brno before landing with only one engine functioning. Around 80 people were on board. The plane, bound for Britain’s Stanstead airport was then held at the airport overnight. Passengers finally took off for London on Saturday. Brno airport has stated that the incident was not particularly serious.
A lost opera by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi has premiered in Prague after being unearthed in Germany by a Czech musician. The opera, called Argippo, has not been heard for 278 years – it was played also in Prague in 1730. Soon after, the opera disappeared. The story is a tale of "passion, love and trickery" in an Indian maharaja's court. Only around two-thirds of the score has survived in a readable condition, thus musician Ondřej Macek, who located the score, has had to pad it out with arias from other Vivaldi works. The opera was performed at Prague castle.
Skiers in the mountainous northern Czech resort of Špindlerův Mlýn have been enjoying their very last day of skiing in what has proven to be a surprisingly long season. Although the winter was mild, temperatures proved ideal for skiing, with the last suitable snow surviving in the Krkonoše mountains up to May. Last year, there were 115 skiing days, this year 150. However, mountaineers in the area remain keen to point out that this is largely due to new systems for mechanically preparing the slopes which were used for the first time this year. The skiing season will finally conclude after Sunday’s skiing.
Several mothers of the victims of convicted child molester Bohumil Kulinský have announced that they will form an NGO to highlight what they believe was an excessively lenient sentence given to the disgraced former choirmaster. Mr Kulinský was convicted in April of sexually abusing around 40 of his female pupils, but received only a three year suspended sentence. In part, this was due to what the court believed was the good work of Mr Kulinský in promoting the name of the Czech Republic. Several mothers of the victims, who were outraged by the verdict, have announced that they will use their organisation to highlight the case in the international media.
An employee of the Czech electricity company ČEZ has been charged with defrauding the company and its customers out of hundreds of thousands of crowns. The man, who worked at a telephone advice centre in the eastern Czech town of Plzeň is believed to have used his position to alter the bank details of clients in the company’s computer system in order to transfer refunds by the company to their customers into the accounts of his accomplices - which are believed to have shared the money. If convicted, the man faces up to eight years in jail.