Daily news summary


Bohuslav Sobotka re-elected as head of Social Democratic Party

The congress of the biggest Czech government party, the Social Democrats, began in Prague on Friday with 713 party delegates attending. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka running unopposed, was re-elected as party chairman, receiving support from 85 percent of delegates. The main focus of the two-day meeting will therefore be on the contest to fill the post of first deputy chairman and the raft of deputy chairman positions. Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec is the front runner to fill the second most significant party post with the backing of Sobotka. Former leader of Social Democrat lawmakers in the lower house Jeroným Tejc and minister Jiří Dienstbier are also running for the coveted post. The congress was last held two years ago in 2013.

Sobotka hits out in congress speech at Andrej Babiš

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka hit out at ANO leader and minister of finance Andrej Babiš during his congress speech. Sobotka said the billionaire owner of the Agrofert company is permanently at risk of being in conflict of interest because of his ongoing connections with the company and with his media empire, which includes two of the country’s biggest daily papers and one of the main radio stations. Sobotka said such a concentration of power had not been seen since 1989. Sobotka’s speech was in some sense a payback for Babiš’s attacks on his government partners two weeks ago at the ANO party meeting.

Three Czechs to take part in UN mission in Golan Heights

The UN has asked the Czech army to fill three vacant posts at its mission headquarters in the Golan Heights this year, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Friday, quoting army chief of staff Petr Pavel. Czech President Miloš Zeman has long supported the deployment of Czech soldiers in the Golan Heights and had previously offered to send a 150-strong military contingent to the region. International observers have been monitoring the border between Syria and Israel since 1974. The situation in the Golan Heights has considerably worsened due to the conflict in Syria.

Suppliers say it will take more than eight months to replace damaged electric cables in Blanka tunnel

Suppliers said in a press conference on Friday that it will take more than eight months to replace damaged electric cables in the as yet unopened Blanka tunnel in the Czech capital. The launch of the long-awaited complex was delayed indefinitely after extensive water damage was discovered. The cost of the tunnel is estimated at at least 37 billion crowns. It is unclear who will pay for the damage; the city of Prague is weighing whether to launch arbitration proceedings. Blanka tunnel was originally scheduled to open at the end of 2011, and later postponed several times. The last proposed opening date was April of this year.

Prague police arrest Bulgarian national found guilty of triple murder

Police in Prague arrested a Bulgarian national on Friday wanted on an international arrest warrant. The 25-year-old was on run after being found guilty for his role in the ritual murders of three people in his homeland. The murders were described as being particularly brutal and sadistic; the convicted man fled before beginning to serve a 16 year sentence. Police narrowed down possible locations in Europe to the Czech Republic; the wanted man was found and captured in Prague’s Radotín district. He tried to resist arrest and will remain behind bars pending deportation.

Police stop motorist going 250 km/h on D11

The police have revealed that at around 11 PM on Thursday night they stopped a motorist on the D11 highway in the direction of Prague from Hradec Králové going roughly 250 kilometres per hour, in other words some 120 kilometres over the speed limit. The 52-year-old driver explained he had been rushing to get home to his family. Every year, the police stop motorists going around 200; in the past 280 km/h was registered, an official said. The man stopped on Thursday risks losing his driver’s permit for one year and a 10 thousand crown fine.

Industrial production climbs 2.9 percent in January

Industrial production climbed by 2.9 percent in January compared with a year earlier, according to figures released Friday by the Czech Statistical Office. That is a slowdown from the 7.3 percent growth announced for December. When the latest figures are corrected for the number of working days and other distortions, January’s growth comes in at a higher 5.5 percent. The number of new orders rose by 1.1 percent in January. The biggest rises in production came from the car making and electrical equipment sectors.

Police complete case against hospital nurse suspected of killing six

Police have called on the state prosecution service to charge a former hospital nurse alleged to have killed six patients at a hospital in the north Bohemian town of Rumburk. Police said they had completed their investigation and wanted charges to be pressed which could result in a sentence of life imprisonment for the accused. The investigation into Věra Marešová was launched last September after the death of one patient which was first thought to have been a mercy killing through an overdose of potassium, but it was soon widened to a series of suspect deaths.

Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke in Prague

Former astronaut Charles Duke, who flew to the moon as part of Apollo 16, is in Prague for the opening of an exhibition called Gateway to Space. Duke, who turns 80 this year, told news website iDnes he would “love to return to the moon” where he said he had not felt afraid but “at home”. Duke, who was born in Charlotte, South Carolina, studied at West Point and is an engineer and retired army pilot. He was the 10th and also the youngest person to walk on the moon’s surface, in 1972. In Prague the former astronaut stressed the importance of the pursuit of new space missions, including missions to Mars.

Moravec takes bronze at biathlon world championship

Czech Ondřej Moravec took the bronze medal in the world championship 20 kilometre biathlon event at Kontiolahti, Finland. It is the second medal from the event for Moravec, who last week clinched gold in the mixed relay. The Czech, who received one minute penalty, finished 40.5 seconds behind the winner, Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen. Martin Fourcade of France took the silver medal.