A number of Czech politicians, both in government and in the opposition, are expressing shock over findings by Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes and commercial broadcaster TV Nova, revealing alleged involvement by a Civic Democrat MP in a dirt-digging and blackmail scandal. Mladá fronta reported on Friday that 29-year-old Civic Democrat MP Jan Morava spent months trying to attain compromising material on fellow MPs for blackmail and character assassination purposes. According to sources, he met with what he believed were private detectives on a number occasions for purposes of digging up material, not realising they were really journalists. The meetings were recorded by hidden camera. After the story broke, Mr Morava apologised but reportedly denied any wrongdoing. Some politicians, including the head of the Green Party Martin Bursík, have expressed deep concern over the case and said the MP should give up his post.
In a different twist in the story on Friday, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek suggested that Jan Morava is "more a victim than a perpetrator" in the breaking scandal. He called on MP Vlastimil Tlustý – a noted rebel within his party – to step down in connection with the case. The prime minister criticised Mr Tlustý for actively cooperating with reporters in their investigation. The MP agreed to take part in staged photographs to create fake “damaging” material. The subject of the photos was a “clandestine” meeting with an anonymous young woman at a hotel. The prime minister called Mr Tlustý’s cooperation with reporters on the story unacceptable; he also said that the media had no right to make use what he termed an "agent-provocateur".
The Czech Republic has asked the United States to help it upgrade its military transport planes, but denies such aid would be in reward for hosting a US radar base in central Bohemia. The story was reported by Reuters. As a NATO member with troops in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, the Czech Republic needs modern military transport to move its forces, Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Pojar said on Thursday after talks at the US State Department. He stressed that Prague had never asked for any reward for agreeing to host a US radar facility - part of the United States’ planned defence shield in Europe. The Czech Republic and the US signed a treaty on the radar base in July, while a supplementary treaty is expected to be signed in September. The plans will then need to be approved by the Czech Parliament.
The Czech army said Friday it will buy 30 armoured vehicles for 998 million crowns (around 58 million US dollars) to protect its forces in Afghanistan from the rising risk of attack. Orders have been placed for 15 Iveco MLV light armoured vehicles and 15 Dingo-2 heavy armoured vehicles, manufactured by German-based Krauss Maffi Wegmann, the army revealed in a statement, acknowledging that conditions in Afghanistan were worsening with an increasing number of attacks on coalition forces, including Czech army personnel. The Czech army has around 500 troops serving in Afghanistan. The vehicles should be delivered by the end of November.
A state prosecutor has rejected a legal complaint by two employees of an Ostrava construction company charged in connection with a deadly train accident in August. Zdeňek Malý and Oldřich Magnusek could face up to ten years in prison for allegedly having failed to have taken steps to properly secure a bridge under construction over tracks in the eastern part of the country. On August 8 the bridge collapsed ahead of an oncoming train. Seven people were killed, and 70 were injured in the tragedy, described as one of the worst Czech railway accidents in recent memory. Both men charged have denied any wrongdoing; the police have not ruled out that others might still be charged in connection with the case.
A Czech man and woman found guilty of murdering a five-year-old boy - the woman’s son - have been handed sentences of 20 and 24 years in prison. In an apparent act of revenge against the child’s natural father, Antonie Stašková and her partner Pavel Grepl murdered the boy last December – a case that shocked the country. The couple abducted five-year-old Jan Rokos, failing to return him to his father who had legal custody. The boy died from stab wounds and strangulation at the hands of the couple. Police caught the perpetrators by chance while checking the suspects’ vehicle last year.
A Prague court has cancelled a ministry decision allowing selected roads in Prague's Pankrác neighbourhood to be widened in connection with two planned high-rise buildings in the area. The Ministry for Local Development supported Prague City Hall's decision on widening the roads in connection with the project back in 2005. Now, the ministry will have to again weigh the matter as a result of the verdict. Numerous activists opposed to the buildings say ECM, the firm behind the proposals, will have to go back to the drawing board or scrap the project. Prague’s Pankrác is home to a number of high-rise buildings but critics have long opposed new additions as a threat to the city’s historic skyline.
Belgian club Anderlecht reportedly value Czech football midfielder Jan Polák at 15 million euros and won’t allow the Czech international to depart to any other club for less. The player recently told a Czech daily he had received an offer but admitted Anderlecht was against his leaving. The player first joined the club last year; unofficial estimates gauged his transfer from Nuremburg at around 3.5 million euros. Anderlecht coach Ariel Jacobs has called Polák one of the team’s “best players”, saying the midfielder had “enormous potential”. He also said he wouldn’t be surprised if Polák one day moved on to one of the richer leagues.
The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, says the best advertising campaign for a planned US radar base has been the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia. He made the comment in response to a question about the effectiveness of an official government campaign to win support for the radar, which the Americans plan to build in central Bohemia. Mr Topolánek’s words seem to contradict official Czech policy that the building of the radar base – part of a US global anti-missile defence system – is not linked to Russia, but to states such as Iran. Prague has signed the main treaty on the base with Washington and is expected to conclude a supplementary treaty this month. The Czech Parliament is then expected to vote on the matter later this year.
The government has launched an advertising campaign aimed at preparing
Czech citizens for the country’s first presidency of the European Union
next year. The first part of the campaign, which is intended to be
humorous, features a number of leading Czech personalities, including
scientist Antonín Holý, architect Eva Jiřičná and soccer star Petr
Čech. Part two, due to follow in November, will focus on explaining the
presidency, and will coincide with the unveiling of the Czech
presidency’s official logo. The Czech Republic will hold the rotating EU
presidency between the beginning of January and the end of June.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Government is preparing to open a new press centre in connection with the presidency. It will be based at the Office of the Government itself, a stone’s throw from Prague’s Malostranská metro station, and will have room for 70 print journalists.