People around the Czech Republic took part in masses and other events on Saturday to mark the day of St. Wenceslas (Václav), the country’s patron saint. Thousands of people attended a traditional pilgrimage held in Stará Boleslav, the small town near Prague where St. Wenceslas was murdered on September 28 907; the event culminated with a mass served by the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, Archbishop Dominik Duka. Saturday was a state holiday.
Ultra nationalists demonstrated in central Prague on Saturday against what they described as the Czech Republic’s decay in the post-1989 period. Around 120 people took part in the protest, bearing slogans such as “national identity instead of globalised grey masses” and chanting against multiculturalism. In a speech on Wenceslas Square, one of the organisers called on voters to back parties defending Czech national interests in next month’s election, adding that some sections of the population should have their voting rights removed. Another group, of around 40 people, held a counter demonstration entitled We Won’t Give Wenceslas to the Nazis. There were no clashes between the two sides.
Around 1,000 people took part in a demonstration in support of the Russian rock band Pussy Riot outside the country’s embassy in Prague on Saturday. One of the organizers told the Czech News Agency that freedom was indivisible and that if people did not support it now in Russia, it would be threatened in the Czech Republic. Three members of Pussy Riot received prison terms in Moscow last year for performing a crude song in a cathedral in the city; one has since been released and one of the two still in custody is on hunger strike.
A gathering of the far-right Workers Party of Social Justice culminated in clashes with the police in the Zábřeh district of the eastern city of Ostrava on Friday evening. The neo-fascists’ leader Tomáš Vandas said the group were protesting against the spread of hostels for “the inadaptable”, a term usually used to refer to the Roma minority. Around 1,000 people attempted to march on a hostel chiefly housing Romanies but were blocked by the police. Some members of the crowd then threw bottles, rocks and firecrackers at riot police, who responded with teargas. Several arrests were made and five people were charged. Tensions have been high between members of the majority population and Romanies in a number of Czech cities and towns in recent months.
Prague’s privately owned DOX Centre for Contemporary Art on Saturday celebrated five years of existence by granting free admission and putting on a number of workshops and other events for the public. Since it first opened its doors in 2008, DOX has held over 100 exhibitions, with a focus on bringing leading international artists to the Czech capital. The multi-storey gallery complex in the city’s Holešovice district was built by a small group of businessmen; it receives some funding from the City of Prague but does not make a profit.
The Czech women’s tennis number one, Petra Kvitová, has won the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. The one-time Wimbledon champion recovered from a drubbing in the second set to beat Angela Berber of Germany 6-2 0-6 6-3 on Saturday. It is the 11th WTA title of Kvitová’s career and, after Dubai, her second of 2013. Her latest success should see her return to the top ten, specifically seventh, in the women’s rankings on Monday.
The Czech Republic’s Tomáš Berdych has reached the final of the Thailand Open in Bangkok. It took the tournament’s top seed three hours to defeat France’s Gilles Simon 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 7-5 on Saturday. Berdych is looking for his first tournament win since Stockholm last October; the world number 7 is the player in the ATP top 10 not to have won a trophy in 2013.
Former head of the Kladno hospital and a co-defendant in the David Rath corruption case, Kateřina Pancová, will be let out on bail after spending the last 16 months in police custody. Ms. Pancová is being tried together with former Central Bohemian governor and nine other people in a large-scale corruption case involving bribe taking and manipulation of tenders. The Prague Regional Court agreed to release Ms. Pancová in early September, but on Friday it finalized the decision by rejecting the State Prosecutor’s appeal which claimed she was at flight risk. Mr. Rath and another key defendant, former MP Petr Kott, remain in custody.
The Prague Public Transportation company (DPP) is around eight billion crowns in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy, the capital’s mayor Tomáš Hudeček said in an interview for Czech Television on Thursday evening. According to Mr. Hudeček, the main problem is a contract the company signed with Škoda Transportation in 2006 for 250 new trams to be delivered over 12 years, which is increasing the DPP’s debt by 2.3 billion crowns each year. The company says that they have encountered technical problems with all of the new 15T trams that were delivered so far, and have filed some 800 complaints with Škoda. If DPP fails to renegotiate the contract within the next six months, it will have to face major restructuring, according to the mayor.
More than a third of all the weapons exports from the Czech Republic last year went to countries which gravely violate human rights, according to a report released by the Czech branch of the advocacy group Amnesty International (AI). The study shows that of the 6.8 billion crown total arms exports, 38.6 percent were sold to countries without a democratically controled of the military, independent courts or police force and with authoritarian style of government. AI included countries such as Yemen, Egypt and Algeria on that list. The percentage of weapons exports to such countries increased by more than 4 percentage points since 2011.