The Czech Constitutional Court has rejected a proposal from the Prague Municipal Court to throw out in its entirety an amnesty declared by the president, Václav Klaus, on New Year’s Day. The court is still considering a previously filed challenge to the amnesty by a cross-party group of senators. It rejected the Prague court’s appeal for two reasons. First, because the senators had been the first to challenge a plank of the amnesty halting cases running for over eight years that could have resulted in jail terms of 10 years or less. Second, because the Prague court didn’t have the right to propose the abrogation of the whole amnesty. President Klaus said he was declaring the controversial amnesty to mark 20 years of the independent Czech Republic.
President Václav Klaus says he regrets the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to step down. In a statement, the Czech head of state said he and the pontiff had been close in their outlooks and that the latter had, unlike others, not ridden the cheap bandwagon of “progressivism”. Mr. Klaus said Pope Benedict had been aware of the dangers arising from the loss of traditional values and the breakup of institutions such as the family and the nation state, as well as headlong European integration.
A court in Ostrava has issued a European warrant for the arrest of former Social Democrat deputy Petr Wolf, who three weeks ago failed to turn up to begin serving a six-year jail term for fraud. A spokesperson said that the police had told the court there was a realistic suspicion that Mr. Wolf was no longer in the Czech Republic. There have been reports that the former politician had drawn substantial amounts from his bank account and last week the newspaper Právo said that it had received a text message from his mobile phone saying that he was disguised as a tree and was being bothered by a nesting woodpecker.
The Czech Republic has strongly condemned a nuclear test carried out by North Korea. In a statement, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the test was an irresponsible and regrettable move that threatened peace and stability in the region and was in contravention of international treaties and United Nations Security Council resolutions. Tuesday’s nuclear test, the third carried out by North Korea, has been met by international condemnation, including from its ally and neighbour China.
The incoming head of state, Miloš Zeman, says he will put a third of his salary into a new presidential fund aimed at paying off the Czech Republic’s state debt. Speaking at a town hall meeting near the country house where he spent much of the last decade, the president-elect said he was setting up the fund to draw attention to the fact that Czechs were merely paying off the growing interest on their national debt, not the debt itself. Mr. Zeman, who takes office on March 8, said he would also seek other donors.
President-elect Zeman has said he will veto a bill that would allow for deputies from LIDEM, the smallest party in the coalition government, to form a parliamentary group. Mr. Zeman is a critic of LIDEM, a breakaway group from the disgraced Public Affairs, because the party has never stood in an election. He says their membership in the coalition casts doubt on its legitimacy and has called for early elections. If Mr. Zeman refuses to sign the bill when he becomes head of state, the Chamber of Deputies can overturn his veto with a simple majority.
The police are investigating the brutal murder of a four-year-old in the town of Česká Lípa. The child, who was alone with its mother when the police arrived, died of stab wounds to the neck. The mother was also critically injured. Police suspect she may have killed her child and tried to commit suicide. There were no signs of forced entry into the home. In line with the family’s wishes the police have refused to disclose further details.
The authorities in Prague are planning to raise the fine for the towing away of illegally parked cars by CZK 600 to CZK 1,900. The change is set to come into effect at the start of April. A spokesperson said the fine had been at the same level since 2001. Some 40,000 cars were towed away in the Czech capital last year, down from 70,000 in 2008. The price per day of “leaving” one’s vehicle at the centre where towed away cars are kept will also go up.
An elephant calf born at Prague zoo on Monday is female, a spokesperson said on Tuesday. The baby was born to an elephant named Donna that came from Rotterdam zoo last year and keepers from the Dutch city were present for the birth. The elephant calf is the first one born at the zoo in its 80-year history and has generated a lot of interest, with 10,000 people “liking” a picture of it on its Facebook page. It will be shown to the public for the first time at the end of next month.
The Sand Martin has been declared bird of the year in the Czech Republic. Ornithologists have called for protection of the smallest member of the swallow family, whose nesting has been impacted by changes linked to the management of the Czech Republic’s river system. Between 15,000 and 30,000 pairs of Sand Martins are believed to nest in the country every year.