Businesswoman Ivana Salačová, involved in a wider corruption case that brought down former regional Social Democrat governor David Rath, has provided key testimony in the hopes of receiving a more lenient sentence, Czech daily Lidové noviny reports. As a witness, Mrs Salačova has reportedly revealed how suspects operated to mask large bribes. In May of this year, former governor Rath was caught red-handed with seven million crowns in cash on his person. Ten others face prosecution in the case. Rath, formerly one of his party’s most prominent figures, is behind bars awaiting trial.
Petr Hájek, the controversial vice chancellor to current president Václav Klaus, has issued harsh criticism of the late Václav Havel, the playwright and former dissident and president, who died a year ago on December 18. In a TV interview, Mr Hájek indirectly compared the late president to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, suggesting that Mr Havel’s politics had been undemocratic and had favored a non-elected elite. In a recently-published book Mr Hájek slammed Václav Havel as having been “in the service of Satan”. The vice chancellor is no stranger to controversy: in the past he has questioned, for example, who was behind the 9/11 attacks. German daily Die Welt this week dubbed the vice chancellor “court jester” to outgoing president Václav Klaus.
City councilors are weighing the possibility of renaming a Prague bridge or part of an embankment street after late President Václav Havel, Mlada fronta Dnes reports. According to the daily, part of Rašínovo nábřeži near where Mr Havel once had an apartment could be renamed in his honour. Councilor Lukáš Manhart told the paper the renaming was a possibility but provided few details. At least one other city councilor expressed support for the idea. Earlier this year Prague’s Ruzyně international airport was renamed after the late president.
New Transport Minister Zbyněk Stanjura has listed as a top priority for alternatives to be found to the Czech Republic’s “overused” major highway, the D1, connecting Bohemia and Moravia. His stressed as an alternative the building of a major road, the R35, as well rail “corridors”. The minister suggested that such a solution made more sense than adding lanes to the D1 and said such projects would help boost the economy. The D1 highway often comes under criticism for damaged routes and surfaces suffering heavy traffic and transport. Minister Stanjura made clear that any new projects would need to be carefully prepared to avoid unexpected jumps in costs, as was the case in the past.
Icy conditions which intensified in areas around the country this week complicated the situation for countless motorists and pedestrians in the early hours of Saturday. According to the Czech news agency, ČTK, emergency services had registered 80 falls on icy Prague sidewalks alone by 1 pm on Saturday. Traffic accidents also increased, with some reporting that the municipal police were having trouble processing cases quickly due to the high number. Although temperatures have risen somewhat, motorists have been asked to exercise extreme caution due to the difficult conditions.
In related news, a driver was killed and his fellow passenger was
seriously injured on Saturday on the road from Litvínov to Most. The
driver apparently lost control of his vehicle on an icy patch and crashed
into an electrical column for trolleybuses. He died at the scene.
In another accident, the father in a family of four was killed shortly 8 am after their car hit a tree in the area of Jindřichův Hradec. His wife and children suffered injuries and were taken to hospital for care.
An 18-month-old infant died on Friday after being savaged by his family’s dog at their home in Prague’s Žižkov district. The news website novinky.cz reported that the dog was a pit bull. The child’s mother is receiving specialist care. Neighbours said the animal had been vicious and attacked other dogs. The Czech police register several cases of dogs attacking children every year.
The freshly installed minister of defence, Karolína Peake, says Prime Minister Petr Nečas reacted angrily to her dismissal of a number of senior Defence Ministry officials. Minister Peake told Czech Television that Mr. Nečas, who was in Brussels, had raised his voice during a phone conversation on Thursday. For his part, Mr. Nečas said she had no place making public their conversation. Among those the minister removed on her first full day in office was her first deputy, General Vlastimil Picek, a former chief of staff of the Czech Army. She said she believed top positions at the ministry should be filled by civilians. On Friday the opposition Social Democrats called for her resignation in a lower house debate.
The nine candidates standing in the Czech Republic’s first direct presidential elections have received their ballot numbers, following a draw by the State Election Commission on Friday. The vote will be held on the second and third weekends of January, with the two candidates who receive the most votes in the first round facing each other in the second. An opinion poll released on Thursday by the PPF Faktum agency suggested the front runner was Miloš Zeman, a former prime minister.