Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek announced Friday that he was considering making a personal trip to Beirut, capital of Lebanon, in light of new unspecified information regarding the hunt for five Czechs who went missing in the country last Saturday. The announcement came following a Friday meeting of a government crisis team tasked with coordinating the case. Zaorálek, who said he first needed to verify the new information, also announced that the identities of the missing Czechs would be made public in the next few days, thus enabling police to undertake formal missing persons procedures. The foreign minister also confirmed he had held talks with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil. Investigators in Lebanon reportedly believe the presumed abduction, which occurred in Kefraya in the Beqaa Valley area of the country near the Syrian border, has a criminal component. Two Czech representatives are already in Lebanon assisting with the investigation, Zaorálek also confirmed.
Three people remain in a critical condition in Ostrava Teaching Hospital following Wednesday's collision between a high-speed train and a truck parked at a crossing near the town of Studénka in north Moravia. According to Tomáš Oborný, spokesperson for the hospital, an additional three people are also being treated for less serious injuries. The accident has so far claimed three lives with a total of 18 injured. Meanwhile, authorities announced the re-opening of the busy train line between Prague and Ostrava where the accident occurred, although restrictions remain in place, including a 40 kph speed limit. Police arrested the 50-year-old Polish truck driver involved in the collision on Friday. The man is reported to have confessed to illegally driving through Studénka to avoid paying a toll on the nearby D1 motorway, which links to Poland. If convicted of endangering public safety through negligence he faces up to ten years in prison.
The State Veterinary Administration (SVS), which is tasked with ensuring the safety of animal products in the Czech Republic, found oversights at 15 percent of restaurants, according to its latest interim report. Prague was found to have the greatest number of problem restaurants, with 34 percent of checks revealing shortcomings. The SVS says it has carried out 6,243 inspections of restaurants and diners so far this year. Of the 15 percent of facilities found wanting, the most common problems were lack of proper documentation regarding meat origins, and also shortcomings regarding hygiene - including insufficient monitoring of expiration dates. The SVS is newly empowered to carry out such inspections as of 2015; it has so far issued 3 million crowns worth of fines.
Police in the town of Uhy, north of Prague, are undertaking a thorough search of a local dump after receiving an anonymous tip-off about a local mother discarding the body of her newborn baby. Dozens of police and fire-fighters are involved in the search. Authorities declined to comment over conflicting reports suggesting that a mother either gave birth to a stillborn baby which was thrown in the garbage, or that the mother committed infanticide and then disposed of the body.
Thursday saw the greatest number of car accident fatalities reported in the Czech Republic since the start of the year, according to police data. Ten deaths were recorded, including three men killed in a single accident involving a van crashing into oncoming traffic in Prunéřov, in the Chomutov area in north-west Bohemia. Until yesterday, March 22 was recorded as the deadliest day on Czech roads this year, with eight fatalities.
A number of active Czech military units saw their footwear fall to pieces during training exercises, reports Radiožurnál. The army has reportedly documented around 150 such cases, in which soldiers were forced to improvise during training, taping up loosened soles on their standard black army-issue boots. The military has declined to speculate on the cause of the disintegrations but has promised affected soldiers will receive replacement boots within the month.
In the United States city of Chicago, memorials will be held for one of the disasters in the country, the sinking of the SS Eastland steamboat on July 24, 1915. Of the 844 who died, around 220 were estimated to be Czech immigrants. Many of the Czechs were employees of the Western Electric company who were taking the steamboat on a Saturday picnic. The memorial events will include the lighting of candles, the performance of a play about the disaster, and appearances by some of the descendants of those who perished 100 years ago.
In football, Mladá Boleslav’s hopes of European competition disappeared in spite of a 1:0 away win at Strömsgodset on Thursday night. After the 1:2 home defeat a week earlier, the Czech team go out on away goals in the prequalifying competition for the Europa League. The sole goal of the match was scored in the 31st minute by Aleš Čermák, who is on loan from Sparta Prague since the summer. The Czech team failed to capitalise on their few other chances in the game.
Former top Social Democrat politician David Rath was found guilty of rigging public contacts and accepting bribes and sentenced to eight and a half years in prison at Prague’s Regional court on Thursday. The former member of parliament, health minister, and head of the Central Bohemian region was not in court to hear the verdict. Police swooped on Rath three years ago at his home on the outskirts of Prague and found him in possession of a wine box stuffed with seven million crowns hidden inside. Apart from that, the prosecution said that he had received around 16 million crowns in pay-offs and was promised 22 million crowns. Rath cut a controversial figure on the Czech political scene, known for his inflammatory and personal verbal attacks on opponents. Rath told Czech Television he would appeal the verdict and described the court process as “exemplary theatre and nothing at all to do with justice.” The prosecution called for a sentence of at least nine years and confiscation of his assets.
In a news conference after the court verdict, David Rath said he did not attend the court because as a doctor he gave priority to treating his patients. He added that the sentence had already been decided weeks previously. Rath added that he was thankful that the death penalty no longer existed because he would have probably got that if it had not been abolished. He said that the judges had ignored the testimony of dozens of witnesses and the evidence presented in what was a fabricated case.