The Czech government is expected late Wednesday to announce concrete steps to ease the ban on spirits. As a result, newly-produced hard liquor – marked with new tax stamps – could be allowed on the market within a matter of days. Restaurant owners and salespeople are to be given 60 days to acquire certificates for alcohol they have in storage. Alcohol without certification is to be destroyed; previously opened bottles at drinking establishments must also be poured out.
The sale of alcohol without proper certification will, in the future, be classified as a serious crime in the Czech Republic, Health Minister Leoš Heger has said. He made the statement on Wednesday even as the government prepared to discuss the lifting of restrictions on the sale of alcohol 20 percent or stronger. The health minister added that the state would run random checks of venues to ensure the law was respected; he estimated that an average of around ten percent of sellers would come under scrutiny. Mr Heger also expressed hope that the threat of committing a serious crime would have a deterring effect. He equated the selling of tainted or methanol-laced alcohol with premeditated murder.
In related news, alcohol producers who applied several days ago for new tax stamps were able to get them up as of Wednesday morning at customs offices. The spokeswoman for the Customs Administration of the Czech Republic, Martina Kaňková, said that as of Tuesday evening the bureau had received requests for 28 million stamps. The new stamps are printed red and feature the Czech word for ‘new’ (nový) to clearly differentiate newly-produced bottles of hard liquor from bottles produced ahead of the methanol crisis. Twenty-six people in the country have died as a result of drinking methanol-laced alcohol allegedly produced by two main suspects who are in custody. Scores of others along the distribution chain were also charged by police.
Leading toxicology expert Daniela Pelcová of the General teaching Hospital in Prague has warned that even patients who survived methanol poisoning in the recent outbreak – and were released from hospital without permanent damage – could develop related health problems later in life. In an interview for the Czech news agency, the specialist stressed that neurological problems or problems with eyesigh, related to the original poisoning, could surface later. Ms Pelcová referred to an Estonian study that showed that problems in some patients surfaced as much as six years later; at the same time, she admitted the results of the study were not conclusive; other outside factors could have had an effect.
The anti-corruption police are investigating past activities by controversial lobbyist Roman Janoušek on a number of counts, the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes reports. The case was spurred by wiretapped conversations between Mr Janousek and former Prague mayor Pavel Bém, part of which were leaked earlier this year and reported in the Czech media. The head of the anti-corruption unit, Tomáš Martinec, confirmed that two incidents were being investigated, one related to the sale of land to the Prague transit authority, the other into whether Mr Janoušek influenced changes in the city’s development plan. The first case alone may have cost the city tens of millions of crowns.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, in an interview for The Cable
– one of US magazine Foreign Policy’s blogs, has said the West has
slow to react to steps taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his
view, to re-establish Russia as a regional hegemon. In the interview, Mr
Schwarzenberg said that President Putin had installed an aggressive
autocracy, one he suggested was close “not to Stalin but to Russian Tsar
Nicholas I”; he stressed that the Obama administration’s “reset”
policy had not been able to influence the heading of the Russian
The Czech foreign minister has consistently voiced concerns over the situation in Russia, including human rights. Most recently, Mr Schwarzenberg condemned, for example, the trial of members of the political punk band Pussy Riot sentenced to three years in prison. Mr Schwarzenberg was in New York for the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly; he met earlier this week with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Golden Bull of Sicily, one of the founding documents of the mediaeval Czech state, will be displayed at the National Archive in Prague to mark the 800th anniversary of its issuing. The bull, issued by Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1212, confirmed the royal title obtained by Ottokar I of Bohemia and granted him and his heirs the hereditary title of the Kings of Bohemia. The exhibition, open from 10 am to six pm, is free and lasts until September 30.
The Regional Court in Prague sentenced a young man to four years in prison for an arson attack on Romanies in Bychory, Central Bohemia, last year. The other three accused were given suspended sentences.The defendant who was found guilty threw a Molotov cocktail into a house inhabited by Romanies, according to the charges. He faced up to 12 years in prison for an attempt at causing a grievous bodily harm and his accomplices faced up to three years for violence against a group of inhabitants and an individual. Wednesday’s verdict can be appealed.
In hockey, Kladno faces league champions Pardubice in Prague on Wednesday – another match by Kladno at Prague’s O2 stadium since acquiring Czech NHL players Jaromír Jágr, who plays for the Dallas Stars and the Montreal Canadiens’ Tomáš Plekanec, playing overseas due to the NHL lockout. The arena offers greater capacity for fans wanting to see not only regular extraliga players but also NHL talent.