News

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Activists slam statements by Čunek about Roma integration and culture

Roma rights activists have criticised statements by the chairman of the Christian Democrats, Jiří Čunek, who said Romany family groups should be broken up in order to weaken family ties which he said prevented them from integrating. Speaking ahead of a party conference in Prague, he also said that traditional Romany culture was not compatible with modern society. Zdeněk Ryšavý of the group Romea said Mr Čunek had made the comments in an effort to increase his fading popularity.

Jiří Čunek won a seat in the Senate after moving Romany rent defaulters out of the centre of the town of Vsetín, where he was mayor. The controversial politician is demanding to be reinstated as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development, after an investigation into allegations he accepted bribes at that time was dropped. A poll this week suggested Mr Čunek’s popularity was at a record low.

Man shoots himself to death during police pursuit in Prague

A 32-year-old man shot himself dead during a police pursuit in the centre of Prague on Saturday morning, a police spokesperson said. The man fled when he was stopped by officers during routine checks at Masarykovo nádraží train station. He ran as far as the garages of the nearby Palladium shopping centre, where he threatened the police with a gun. After a police officer shot him in the leg the man turned the gun on himself, despite police efforts to talk him out of suicide, the spokesperson said. The incident is being investigated.

Škrlová speaks to psychiatrists for first time

The Czech woman at the centre of a bizarre case of identity fraud has been interviewed by psychiatrists for the first time. Barbora Škrlová is in custody in Brno, after being detained in Norway, where she had attended school in the guise of a 13-year-old boy. The diminutive 33-year-old was wanted in the Czech Republic, where she had previously posed as a 13-year-old girl, in connection with an investigation into an apparent child abuse ring. Ms Škrlová’s lawyer said he would petition on Monday to have her released from custody, which he said was a very stressful environment. The strange case has attracted a great deal of attention in the Czech Republic and internationally.

Amnesty International holds protest against Guantanamo Bay outside US Embassy

The human rights group Amnesty International held a protest against the Guantanamo Bay prison outside Prague’s American Embassy on Friday evening. Protesters dressed as prison guards brought colleagues in orange suits and handcuffs to the US Embassy in order to draw attention to the sixth anniversary of the first imprisonment at the US jail in Cuba, which has been used by Washington as part of what it calls its war on terror. The Amnesty activists called for detainees at Guantanamo to be either tried or released.

Memorial services held in honour of Jan Palach

Memorial services were held on Saturday at the grave of Jan Palach at Prague’s Olšanské hřbitovy cemetery and in the town of Všetaty, where he lived. Palach set himself on fire at the top of Wenceslas Square on January 16, 1969, in protest at the Soviet invasion of 1968. He died three days later and his funeral became a major protest against the occupation.

Heart and lung transplant woman released after successful operation

The first person in the Czech Republic to have a simultaneous heart and lung transplant has been released from hospital. Lea Mečířová, who is 49, underwent the successful operation in late November at Prague’s Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. She had been waiting for the operation since the year 2000. Around 80 such procedures are carried out around the world every year.

Remains of pilot returning to US 63 years after his death

The remains of William Kiggins, an American pilot who crashed in Brno at the end of World War II, are being returned to the US, over 63 years after his death. A local woman of 75 who remembered the crash helped researchers find the wreck of his P-51 Mustang plane Miss Betty last year. After a memorial ceremony in the Moravian capital on Monday, the pilot’s remains will be sent to the US, in line with a request from the United States Embassy in Prague. A memorial to William Kiggins in the shape of the wing of a P-51 Mustang was erected in Brno in October.

Weather

It should remain relatively mild over the next few days, with temperatures of up to 7 degrees Celsius. It will be mainly cloudy.