Daily news summary

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Prosecutor recommends 10 years for ex-Prague imam facing terror charges

The state prosecutor’s office has recommended that a former Prague imam, Samer Shehadeh, receive a jail term of 10 years. He is accused of helping his brother and sister-and-law to travel to Syria to join the terrorist organisation Al-Nusra Front. Mr. Shehadeh is also charged with sending the group money via an intermediary several times.

The ex-imam has confessed in a Prague court to helping the couple and to sending money to Syria. However, he said he did not believe those actions were unlawful as he does not recognise the Syrian government and does not view the Al-Nusra Front as terrorist.

Mr. Shehadeh left the Czech Republic in 2017. However, he was later arrested in Jordan on terrorism charges and handed over to the Czech authorities.

Social Democrats to discuss VAT rates on beer with ANO

The Social Democrats plan to raise the issue of VAT rates on beer with coalition partners ANO, the former’s MP Václav Votava said on Tuesday. The junior government party voted recently for a change in VAT on draught beer without thinking the matter through, Mr. Votava said.

The ANO-controlled Ministry of Finance has put forward a new system under which there would be different VAT rates on beer depending on where it was sold, with a lower rate in place at restaurants where the drink is consumed on the premises. The change, which has come in for a lot of online mockery, should take effect from May.

Czech Republic applies for conciliation procedure over EU sanctions

The Czech Republic has applied for a conciliation procedure in connection with EU sanctions for errors in distributing agricultural subsidies.

According to Czech Radio, the sanctions concern EU funds distributed between 2015 and 2017 and stem from an audit conducted three years ago.

The European Commission wants the Czech Republic to return 1.16 billion crowns which was not used for the purpose for which it was granted.

According to the European Commission, the control mechanisms in the Czech Republic are inadequate in this respect.

The Ministry of Agriculture disagrees with the outcome of the audit and wants an independent body to review the case.

Govt and CEZ to publish deal on new Dukovany unit in weeks

The Czech government and the semi-state power giant CEZ will publish a deal on the construction of a new unit at the Dukovany nuclear power station in the coming weeks, the minister of industry and trade, Karel Havlíček, said on Tuesday. Mr. Havlíček said a supplier of the new unit should be selected by the end of this year. Planning permission ought to be issued by 2029 and construction on the new nuclear unit would begin soon after, he told reporters on a visit to Dukovany.

The head of CEZ, Daniel Beneš, said recently that the state would hold consultations during February with five companies seeking a contract to build the unit. These include Russia’s Rosatom and Westinghouse from the US.

Strong winds to continue until Wednesday evening

Strong winds are due to continue in the Czech Republic until Wednesday evening, forecasters say. While Storm Sabine has not been as dramatic on Tuesday as on Monday, tens of thousands of Czech homes were still without power on Tuesday afternoon, while rail and road transport has also been impacted. Bohemia is at present facing stronger winds than Moravia and Silesia.

Prognosis: Bark beetle damage likely to double again next year

A bark beetle infestation will destroy up to 60 million cubic metres of wood in the Czech Republic this year and that figure is likely to double next year, according to a study by the environmental think tank Czech forest published on Tuesday.

The level of damage caused by the insect has doubled every year since 2017, the authors of the mid-term prognosis said

After 2021 the number of trees attacked will decline in view of the fact that less than half of all spruces living prior to the country’s bark beetle epidemic will be left standing.

Blesk still most popular Czech daily but readership falling

Blesk remains the Czech Republic’s most read newspaper, with 834,000 readers per issue in the second half of last year, according to the Union of Publishers. That figure was almost 40,000 down on the first half of 2019.

The second most popular daily is Mladá fronta Dnes, with 513,000 readers an issue. Third is Právo, with 215,000.

While the reach of sold newspapers declined in the third and fourth quarters, the free dailies Metro and E15 both registered a slight rise in readership.

Weather forecast

It should be quite cloudy in the Czech Republic on Wednesday, with temperatures of up to 4 degrees Celsius. Daytime highs are expected to climb to up to 10 degrees Celsius at the weekend.