Daily news summary

Former Prague imam rejects terrorist label, legitimacy of Czech courts

Former Prague imam Samer Shehadeh admitted on Tuesday that he had helped his brother and sister-in-law travel to Syria to join a the organisation Jabhat Fatah as-Sham (Conquest of Syria).

However, Shehadeh said he does not consider it a criminal act because he does not recognise the Syrian government or perceive Jabhat Fatah as-Sham as terrorists. He also said any Czech courts' decision is irrelevant to him as they do not follow Islamic sharia law.

The former imam’s brother and sister-in-law are also defendants in the case. Czech intelligence services began investigating the trio in 2016. Shehadeh is also accused of using charity money to support terrorism financially.

Head of Office of President under scrutiny by financial inspectors for business dealings

Financial inspectors are looking into the details of how the head of President Miloš Zeman’s office Chancellor Vratyslav Mynář received subsidy funding for his guesthouse located in the Moravian town of Osvětimany, Czech Radio reports. Mr Mynář has already had to pay back CZK 975,000 from the CZK 13 million in total that he received in subsidies for the project, but inspectors are looking into other parts of the project as well. According to the Ministry of Education, Mr Mynář broke subsidy funding conditions and the news site Seznam Zprávy reports that the police are also looking into the case.

Mr Mynář, who has been in charge of the Office of the President since March 2013, has refused to comment on the case.

Czech senator calls on Germany, Austria to examine Agrofert loans

Czech senator Lukáš Wagenknecht (independent, for the Pirates) has called on central banks in Austria and Germany to examine loans provided to the Agrofert conglomerate founded by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO).

Wagenknecht is hoping to learn more about how Agrofert operates since Babiš was compelled under Czech law to place it in trust funds, the news site Neovlivní.cz reports.

European Commission audits leaked to the press have found Babiš in conflict of interest because he continues to exert influence over Agrofert, despite placing it into trust funds in 2017.

Wagenknecht wants to determine whether Agrofert gave false or contradictory information to German and Austrian banks regarding beneficial ownership of the conglomerate.

The senator noted that in a Slovak register Babiš is listed as the controlling entity of Agrofert and its end beneficiary.

Czech soldiers to remain in Iraq despite rising tensions, MoD says

Czech soldiers deployed in Iraq will remain stationed there despite rising tension since the United States killed Iranian general Qassim Soleimani last week, the Ministry of Defence confirmed on Tuesday.

The Czech Army currently has around 40 soldiers and police officers in Iraq mainly working to train Iraqi security forces to fight against the ISIS militia. Increased security measures will be taken in coordination with NATO allies, a ministry spokesman said.

Vamberk lace, Uherské Hradiště feasts make Czech intangible folk cultural heritage list

The Ministry of Culture has added Vamberk bobbin lace and Uherské Hradiště region feasts on its intangible cultural heritage list – a step towards possible inclusion on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.

Vamberk has been known for its exquisite lace production since the 17th century. The first school of bobbin lace opened there in 1899.

The Uherské Hradiště region and Slovácko Museum have been looking to have village feasts tied to Christian holidays and seasonal events included on the Czech list for years.

Prague pays last respects to WWII Lidice massacre survivor

People in Prague on Tuesday paid their last respects to Miloslava Kalibová, among the last survivors of the Lidice massacre, who died in late December at the age of 96. Her funeral took place at Prague’s Motol crematorium.

As a 19-year-old, she witnessed her father and other innocent male villagers be executed by the Nazis in retaliation for the assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich.

She later spent almost three years with her mother and sister in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Throughout her life, Kalibová had worked tirelessly to bear witness of the atrocities of the Holocaust, sharing her experience in lectures and debates.

Czech ex-football international Tomáš Řepka released from prison early

Former Czech football international Tomáš Řepka has been released from prison seven months into a 2.5 year sentence for fraud.

Řepka had sold a Mercedes which he no longer owned but was leasing. Earlier, he was sentenced for advertising sexual services online in the name of his ex-wife.

During his football career, he earned 45 caps for the Czech Republic and played for a number of clubs, including Italy’s Fiorentina and the English Premier League side West Ham United.

CRIF: Bankruptcies up again after six-year drop

The number of bankruptcies of companies and entrepreneurs increased in 2019 after a six-year decline, according to the Czech Credit Bureau (CRIF).

The number of businesses declaring bankruptcy rose by 22 over the previous year to 680. The respective rise for entrepreneurs was starker, increasing by 2,440 to 7,940, the data show.

CRIF analyst Věra Kameníčková said that the number of bankruptcies of companies in 2019 was still quite low compared to the period of 2008 through 2017.

Weather outlook

Wednesday should be partly cloudy or overcast throughout the country. Average daytime highs are expected to range from 3 to 7 Degrees Celsius. Freezing rain is anticipated in much of Moravia on both Wednesday and Thursday.