A Swiss court has upheld an extradition order for fugitive Czech businessman Tomas Pitr. The decision is final. Pitr has been on the run since June 2007, when he didn't report to prison for a five-year sentence for tax fraud to the tune of 51 million crowns. Earlier this year, he faced a second, separate conviction for securities fraud, receiving a three-year sentence. Swiss police detained Pitr in July of last year in the resort town of St. Moritz. Pitr had contested the extradition order of the Swiss Justice ministry.
Experts searching for the source of increased radiation at a children’s playground in Prague’s Podolí district have unearthed a small metal rod. The object has been sent to a laboratory for tests. Dana Drábová, head of the country’s Nuclear Safety Institute confirmed earlier on Thursday that radiation levels in the area were over a thousand times higher than the permitted level. Police closed off the area late on Wednesday after a man wearing a wristwatch with a radiation measuring device raised the alarm. Experts say the source of radiation could be radium 226 isotopes used in the manufacture of certain medical equipment such as radium needles.
Three employees were injured in an acetylene explosion in a factory near Brno on Thursday. The men were cleaning a tank when the explosion happened and all three suffered severe burns. One of them suffered lung damage from inhaling the fumes and is on a ventilator in an induced coma. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
Czech Environment Minister Tomáš Chalupa and his visiting Polish counterpart Andrzej Kraszewski have signed a memorandum on reducing air pollution in the border regions. According to EU statistics, the air in Silesia’s border region is one of the most polluted on the continent, with air pollution limits exceeded nearly three times. The Czech Republic and Poland are developing a joint system for monitoring pollutants. The system will monitor primarily dust particles, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and selected organic substances that pose a risk to human health.
A Prague court has upheld a suspended six months sentence for Holocaust denial served to a Canadian citizen of Czech descent. Vladimir Stwora was convicted in May of this year for placing on his web page a Czech language version of an article denying the Holocaust. Stwora has repeatedly rejected the charges on the grounds that he was not the author of the article, nor its translator, and has claimed to disagree with the content of the text. He said he had published the article in Canada and that the web server on which his website is located is housed in the USA and that what he did was not a crime in those countries.
President Klaus has signed into law the first phase of the government’s health reform. The bill will introduce direct payments for above standard health care, increase the fee for a day in hospital from the present 60 to 100 crowns and increase patients’ financial participation in other ways. For instance drugs costing less than 50 crowns will no longer be covered by health insurance. It is estimated that the reform will enable the state to collect approximately 8 billion crowns more next year. The reform has come under fire from the opposition which argues that it will create a two-tier system of health care and disadvantage the socially weaker groups of the population.
A Roma activist has said the minority needs to establish its own party to influence developments in the regions. Čenek Ružička, chairman of the Romani Holocaust Compensation Committee, said he did not trust existing parties to defend Romany rights and argued that the situation would not improve until the Roma had their own representatives in local and national government. He said this would have to be done step by step, with the initial objective being to form a movement. The proposal comes amidst heightened tension between the majority population and the Roma minority in the north of the country where ethnic Czechs blame the Roma for a rise in crime and petty theft. Anti-Roma demonstrations have been taking place on a weekly basis.
The Czech Republic's foreign debt increased by 32.2 billion crowns to 1.686 billion in the second quarter and accounted for 48.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product, the Czech National Bank said Thursday. Year-on-year, the foreign debt grew by 65.7 billion, the bank said. Foreign liabilities with maturities longer than one year accounted for 72.8 percent of the total foreign debt in Q2.Growth in external debt was particularly apparent in banking liabilities, the central bank said. The banking sector accounted for 25.4 percent of the total debt.
Deputy Social Democrat leader Jiří Dienstbier has climber to the top of the popularity ladder of Czech politicians, ousting his party boss Bohuslav Sobotka, who reigned unchallenged for over a year. Mr. Dienstbier got a 55 percent trust rating from the public, followed by Bohuslav Sobotka and another Social Democrat deputy chairman Michal Hašek. Miroslava Němcová, deputy chair of the Civic Democrats, placed fourth with a 47 percent trust rating. Prime Minister Petr Nečas is in tenth place with 36 percent.
Three Czech citizens have been killed and another badly injured in a car accident in Nicaragua, according to the local daily La Prensa. The Czechs were travelling to the port city of Leon when their car collided head on with an oncoming lorry. The twenty-one-year-old driver who alone survived the accident is reported to be in serious condition in hospital.