The European Union's Czech presidency has voiced serious concern about espionage charges leveled against US-Iranian journalist Roxana Sabery in Iran. The Czech EU presidency called on Teheran to respect human rights and honour all international human rights treaties ratified by the country. It emerged on Wednesday that Sabery who has been detained in a notorious Teheran prison since January, has been charged with spying. She was initially reported to have been detained for illegally buying alcohol.
Czech media reported on Friday that the new Prime Minister Jan Fischer has almost assembled his cabinet. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes said 11 positions have been filled with only four still in question. In many cases, the new cabinet members will be deputy ministers already serving in the ministry. Newspapers report that the head of the competition office Martin Pecina is one of the outside experts being brought in. He is tipped to take over at the Ministry of Interior. Outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told Czech Radio on Thursday that the former Czech EU ambassador Jan Kohout would be heading the Foreign Ministry. He is now serving as a deputy foreign minister responsible for development, consular and visa affairs and international and community law. Jan Fischer’s caretaker cabinet is to have 16 ministerial posts. It is due to take over on May 9th and lead the country until early elections in October.
Forty-eight percent of Czechs consider Jan Fischer an appropriate choice for prime minister and believe he will cope well with the challenges ahead, according to a poll conducted by the Factum Invenio agency. A third of respondents said they did not think he was equipped to take over, especially in the middle of the country’s EU presidency. At 58, Jan Fischer he is the country’s oldest-ever prime minister. Some people have reservations to the fact that he is essentially a technocrat, others criticize the fact that he spent ten years in the communist party.
The Czech Republic will provide a loan worth 1.3 billion euros (around 27 billion crowns) to the International Monetary Fund for possible help to countries hit by the financial crisis, the internet daily E15 reported on Friday, citing Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek. The loan is the Czech contribution to a trillion dollar aid package which the G20 countries agreed on at their London summit earlier this month. The Czech contribution should be drawn from foreign exchange reserves of the Czech National Bank.
Former prisoners of the communist regime and resistance fighters who do not receive Czech pensions will get a one-off allowance from the Czech state as compensation for their suffering, under a bill President Vaclav Klaus signed into law on Friday. The legislation applies, for instance, to men and women who receive old-age pensions in Slovakia or in other foreign countries, or to those who do not receive old-age pensions at all. In the Czech Republic, former resistance fighters, political prisoners of the communist regime as well as the widows, widowers and orphans of those who were executed or died in custody, prison or a concentration camp receive extra benefits paid monthly along with their pension. The level of these bonuses is periodically upgraded.
The police is gearing up for a planned neo-Nazi march in the town of Ustí nad Labem on April 18th, just two days ahead of the 120th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth. The head of the north Bohemian police force Jiří Vorálek said several hundred neo-Nazis were expected to attend predominantly from the Czech Republic and neighbouring Germany. Police reinforcements are being brought in from around the country and the city’s inhabitants have been asked to stay away from problem areas so as not to get caught up in potential street violence.
The Prague City Court on Friday sentenced businessman Bohumír Duričko to 12.5 years in prison for the murder of Václav Kočka Jr. The case generated enormous publicity since the victim was the son of a close friend of opposition leader Jiří Paroubek and the shooting incident took place at a late-night party following Mr. Paroubek’s book launch at a restaurant in the centre of Prague. Duričko, who pleaded not guilty, saying he did not intend to kill Kočka Jr and had fired his gun in self-defence, has appealed the verdict.
Czech President Václav Klaus granted pardon to 11 people, including six foreigners on the occasion of Good Friday. The pardoned were selected mostly for humanitarian reasons, and none of them were serving time for serious crimes. The president also pardoned five of the foreigners from expulsion, on the grounds that they had lived in the Czech Republic for a long time and have families here.
Fifty-seven percent of Czechs think there are too many foreigners in the Czech Republic and one-fifth of them agree with the view that the Czech Republic should not accept any more refugees, according to the outcome of a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. Seventy-eight percent of Czechs think that residence permits should be linked to certain criteria. The view that the Czech Republic should significantly curb the number of refugees the country takes in is held by 68 percent of Czechs.
Czech President Václav Klaus appointed Jan Fischer as the country’s new prime minister during a brief ceremony at Prague Castle on Thursday afternoon. Mr Fischer, the head of the country’s statistical office, should become the non-partisan leader of a caretaker government from May 9 until early elections in October. His appointment has been paved by a deal between the country’s two biggest political parties, the centre-right Civic Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats. They have enough votes in the lower house of Parliament to guarantee Fischer’s government of experts sufficient support in a confidence vote and pilot the country to early elections.