News

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Castle and cathedral placed under administration over debt

A court has put Prague Castle and the adjacent St Vitus’ Cathedral under administration at the request of an Italian company which says the castle’s operators owe it around one million crowns (the equivalent of 62 thousand US dollars). The Castle Administration is appealing the ruling. The head of the president’s office Jiří Weigl told Czech Radio on Friday there was no threat of a forced sale of Castle property, saying the necessary funds were available to cover the debt but the Castle Administration is waiting to see if the Supreme Court upheld the latest ruling. The dispute goes back to 2001, when the firm GEMA Art took part in an exhibition on Renaissance and Baroque artists.

PM defends statement criticising the US

The prime minister has defended a statement made earlier this week about the United States allowing the torture of prisoners. His words were in response to an annual report on human rights released by the US State Department, criticising the Czech Republic for its treatment of the Roma minority as well as for corruption. In his statement the prime minister said that a country which “allowed the torture of prisoners could hardly preach on human rights breaches”. His words came just weeks after Mr Topolánek visited the US to negotiate visa-free relations, as well as the possible stationing of a US radar base on Czech soil. In Brussels on Friday the prime minister maintained he stood by his earlier statement, calling his reaction “adequate”.

Neff Novak to be held in custody for wife’s murder

A Prague court has ordered Robert Neff Novák to be held in custody after the 39-year-old admitted to the murder of his wife, the daughter of well-known Czech science fiction author Ondřej Neff. 28-year-old Irena Neffová disappeared in late February, a highly-publicised case in which her husband appealed to the public for any information before himself becoming the main suspect. After Mr Neff Novák fell under suspicion he eventually admitted to the crime, leading investigators to a site where he had buried his wife’s body. He now faces a sentence of fifteen years in prison. Ondřej Neff has said his daughter’s 20-month-old baby will be cared for by the Neff family.

Suspected bank robbers arrested in Prague

Police have arrested four Danish nationals wanted for allegedly robbing a bank in the town of Aarhus in Denmark last December. Arrests were made in Prague on Thursday and Friday, a police spokesperson revealed. The four allegedly masked their identities and threatened to use automatic weapons in the hold-up, making off with 27 million Danish crowns - the equivalent of more than 200 thousand US dollars. Denmark is expected to ask for the group’s extradition.

Police report jump in amount of cocaine seized

Police have reported seizing eight times more cocaine in 2007 in the Czech Republic than the previous year. According to information revealed in an annual report released on Friday more than 37 kilograms were seized in the Czech Republic last year. The country’s anti-drug unit is attributing the rise in the drug’s popularity to cheaper prices. According to police, most of the cocaine was smuggled either from South America or from the Netherlands. Along with cocaine, Czech police also reported having seized 20 kilograms of heroin and 122 kilos of marijuana last year.

City Hall bans two extremist marches

Prague City Hall has banned two marches proposed by right-wing extremists for May 1, 2008, on the grounds the demonstrations would promote hatred and intolerance and the suppression of individual freedom. City hall based its decision on expert analysis and police intelligence. The proposals for the marches were put forward by Martin Matička - a figure allegedly known for attendance at neo-Nazi concerts and for having ties to neo-Nazi groups. The organiser can challenge the decision in court. The two demonstrations banned by City Hall had been planned for Prague’s Žižkov district.

ČTK: No to Bases head discusses details of US trip

Jan Tamas - of the No to Bases Initiative opposed to the siting of a US radar base in the Czech Republic – reportedly met with a number of representatives of the US Congress this week. The news was revealed by the Czech news agency, ČTK, on Friday. Speaking to the agency Mr Tamas said that Congress members he had met with had criticised the US Administration for trying to “push through” missile defense without discussing it in Congress. The United States is hoping to station a radar base at the Brdy military district in the Czech Republic to complement a proposed missile instillation in Poland, part of a broader defense shield. Mr Tamas told ČTK on his visit to the US he also met with well-known activist and intellectual Noam Chomsky, said to support a new petition against the US plan.

Czech military to get first Tatra lorries in late March

The Czech military is set to get almost 30 trucks ordered from lorry maker Tatra, which were to have been delivered last November. Defence Ministry spokesman Andrej Čírtek revealed the information on Friday, saying the first delivery should be completed by the end of March. Mr Čírtek said the military was testing the quality of the vehicles; in previous testing the army discovered almost two dozen shortcomings leading to the delivery postponement. The Czech military will eventually receive almost 300 Tatras in the course of this year, to replace older vehicles.

NHL hockey: Holík helps sink Flames in 6-4 turnaround

Czech forward Robert Holík was instrumental in a dramatic turnaround win for Atlanta over Calgary on Thursday, notching up two assists and earning the game-winning goal. Atlanta trailed 3-0 at one point in the game, but won 6-4.

In other action: Martin Hanzal assisted on both goals in the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 win over Vancouver on Thursday, keeping alive his team’s playoff hopes. Phoenix trails Vancouver by three points - with the Canucks currently in the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.

Weather

Cloudy and rainy conditions are expected into the weekend with daytime temperatures reaching around 10 degrees Celsius.