Opponents and defenders of refugees held rival demonstrations in the centre of Prague on Saturday afternoon. Around a thousand anti-immigration protestors led by populist MP Tomio Okamura gathered in front of the National Museum, some waving Czech flags and carrying anti-Islamic signs. Around 400 anti-xenophobia demonstrators gathered a little lower on Wenceslas Square by the statute of Saint Wenceslas. Some of the latter whistled while Mr. Okamura was speaking and there were verbal clashes between the two groups.
Over 25,000 Roman Catholics took part in a mass in central Brno on Saturday. The service on the city’s Zelný trh was the culmination of the first National Eucharistic Congress held in the Czech Republic. Over 500 priests were among those in attendance at the mass, which was performed by such figures as Prague’s Archbishop Dominik Duka, Archbishop Jan Graubner from Olomouc and the papal nuncio Giuseppe Leanza. Eucharistic congresses are common in states with large Catholic communities and are held every four years.
Three pedestrians were seriously injured after being hit by trams in three different parts of Prague on Friday evening and night. A 32-year-old man was hit by the Biskupcova tram stop in Žižkov, a man of 27 was hit near the Invalidovna stop in Karlín and a 46-year old woman was hit at the Slavia stop in Vršovice, the spokesperson for the city’s rescue services, Jiřina Ernestová, told the Czech News Agency. She said people needed to be aware that trams had right of way over pedestrians.
Preparations are being completed for a conference in Prague later this month focused on journalist Karel Weirich, who was a correspondent of the Czech New Agency in the Vatican and Italy and saved the lives of 200 Czechoslovak Jews during WWII. The conference takes place on October 26, two days before Weirich is set to receive the state honour the Order of the White Lion in memoriam. A recently published book has brought attention to the reporter, who was himself imprisoned for his activities helping Czechoslovak Jews interned in Italy.
ANO chief Andrej Babiš says the Christian Democrats’ Jan Bartošek based a gambling bill he put forward on a document produced by a gambling lobby group. Mr. Babiš posted the two texts – which are almost identical in content – on his blog on Friday evening. Earlier in the week Mr. Bartošek strongly denied cooperating with gambling lobby group APKURS and demanded an apology from Mr. Babiš after he made a similar accusation. A representative of APKURS said the text posted online by the ANO leader was of a lower quality than its materials.
Events are being held in the Czech Republic on Saturday to mark the annual International Archaeology Day. Lectures, guided tours, exhibitions and workshops are taking place. People can for instance try elements of an archaeological dig for themselves at a Charles University building on Prague’s Celetná St., while the Náprstek Museum will present the results of Czech digs abroad. Last year around 3,000 people of all ages turned out for a similar programme.
The governor of the Olomouc region, who has been charged with bribery, has refused to step down despite pressure from the head of his Social Democratic Party, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Mr. Sobotka made the comments after a meeting with Jiří Rozbořil on Friday evening. Mr. Rozbořil’s decision to remain in the post has been backed by the Social Democrats’ regional committee. As indicted individuals cannot stand under party rules, he will not be able to head the Social Democrats’ ticket in next year’s regional elections. Mr. Rozbořil was arrested as part of an anti-corruption operation that has also involved senior police officers.
A Prague court has refused to arbitrate the case against the art group Ztohoven whose members recently replaced the presidential flag over Prague Castle with a gigantic pair of red boxer shorts in protest at Mr. Zeman’s policies and behaviour. The judge sent the case back to the police for further investigation saying there was insufficient proof that the two young men who face charges were responsible for the damage to the roof of Prague Castle and that the overall damage assessment presented was inadequate. The state attorney may appeal the decision.
The Czech Rectors Conference has said its members will not attend the ceremony at Prague Castle marking Czechoslovakia Independence Day on October 28th. The academic boycott of the celebrations is a show of protest over the president’s decision not to invite two university rectors to Prague Castle over past disagreements. For the third year now the rectors of Brno’s Masaryk University and the South Bohemian University in České Budějovice have not been included on the guest list as a result of personal disputes with the head of state. The Rectors Conference says this is undignified and has accused Mr. Zeman of appropriating the public holiday.
President Miloš Zeman has come under fire for statements that he made on a visit to the Zlín region on Friday. In an informal debate with the employees of a local company, Mr. Zeman said that migrants of the Muslim faith had no desire to integrate and if they settled here they would not respect Czech laws but adhere to the sharia. He predicted that in due time Muslim women in Europe would be stoned and thieves would have their hands chopped off. Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier slammed the president’s words as “irresponsible scaremongering” and Deputy-Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek also took issue with the head of state, reminding him that the Czech Republic had a Muslim senator who abided by the country’s laws and respected European values.