News

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Kozeny free after US extradition request denied by court in Bahamas

The fugitive Czech-born businessman Viktor Kozeny has been released by a court in the Bahamas, after a United States request for his extradition was rejected, the Novinky website reported. Mr Kozeny, nicknamed the Pirate of Prague, is wanted in the US in connection with large-scale fraud connected with a deal to buy out state ownership of the oil industry in Azerbaijan. He is also wanted in the Czech Republic for fraud linked to the 1990s "coupon" privatisation process. A lawyer for Mr Kozeny, Philip Davis, told The Bahama Journal that his client was now free to move about the Bahamas, just as he had done for thirteen years.

Czech PM: Russia may inspect US radar base in Czech Republic

Russian inspectors might be able to check the assembly and operation of the U.S. radar base in Brdy military area, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek indicated in an interview for Czech Television. Mr Topolanek said that the cooperation would improve relations between US and Russia. He added, however, that no Russian soldiers will be permanently present at the base.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mentioned the possibility of Russian presence at the Czech radar facility in order to overcome Russian hostility to its European anti-missile shield. He added that the agreement wouldn't be signed without Czech consent. The US offer to allow a Russian presence at the planned American radar base in the Czech Republic has been criticised by the Czech left-wing opposition as well as by number of government politicians.

Vaclav Havel against Russian presence at US radar

Meanwhile, the former Czech president Vaclav Havel said no concessions should be made to Russia in the issue of the US missile defence shield in Europe, the German news DPA agency reported on Thursday. Mr Havel warned that Russia's interference in Central Europe was a sinister remnant of Cold War.

Pavel Tigrid honoured in Prague

A memorial plaque was unveiled in Prague on Thursday afternoon in honour of the late journalist Pavel Tigrid, one of the most influential Czech personalities of the 20th century. The plaque will be mounted on the wall of the Old Jewish Cemetery, in the street where Mr Tigrid lived until his death in 2003. Among people attending the unveiling ceremony will be Czech President Vaclav Klaus, his predecessor Vaclav Havel and Tigrid's wife Ivana Tigridova.

Pavel Tigrid is best known for his work as a journalist and broadcaster in exile during the Cold War. He established and for a number of years headed the Czechoslovak section of Radio Free Europe. He subsequently moved to Paris, where he set up and published a magazine called Svedectvi (Witness). After the Velvet Revolution, Pavel Tigrid returned to Czechoslovakia where he worked as a Minister for Culture and later as an adviser to President Havel.

Visegrad countries call on Burma to release political prisoners

The foreign ministers of the Visegrad Four called on Thursday on Burma to release political prisoner, including dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg read out the statement to journalists. The foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia also called on Burma to provide complete information on the fate of the Buddhist monks and democratic activists in connection with the recent repressive measures taken in the country.

Expert team to decide about the future of Czech national library

An expert team made of architects, conservationists and lawyers was set up to look for a solution to the dispute over the planned construction of a new Czech national library building in Prague, designed by Czech-born British architect Jan Kaplicky. Prague's mayor Pavel Bem said the main task of the team will be to find a more suitable site for the library. The team is expected to arrive at a decision within two or three months.

The building, nicknamed "the Blob", was the winning entry in an international competition earlier this year. It has become the centre of heated debate after it came to light the project would be blocked by assembly members from the Civic Democratic Party at City Hall.

Cocaine import to the Czech Republic on rise

Czech customs officers have registered increased amount of cocaine smuggled to the Czech Republic during this year. Prior to Thursday, they have seized almost 27 kilograms of the drug, which is four times more than for the whole of last year. According to the Czech Customs Administration, the Czech Republic is becoming a target country for cocaine and Czechs often participate in its illegal import.

Earlier this year, Czech police and anti-drugs groups have warned that use of cocaine is on the rise. One gram of cocaine now costs around 2000 CZK (100 USD), which is much cheaper than in the past. Despite the rise in the drug's popularity, the number of addicts seeking treatment is still extremely low. Since 1997, only 0.5% of those being treated for drug addiction in the Czech Republic have been addicted to cocaine.

Czech policeman to be dismissed over neo-Nazi support

A municipal policeman from the east Bohemian town of Pardubice is an active neo-Nazi, Nova TV reported on Wednesday. The Anti-fascist Action group has acquired some photos on which the policeman is depicted in Nazi uniforms and under swastika. The policeman will be dismissed from the police at the end of October. According to the TV, it couldn't be ruled out that more police officers were involved in the case.

Prague Hilton evacuated over gas leak

Some 2,500 people were evacuated this morning from Prague's Hilton Hotel, the largest hotel in the country, and surrounding buildings due to a gas leak from a broken pipeline in a nearby ditch. The gas got into the hotel through its air-conditioning system. According to fire service spokesmen Vit Pernica, it has been the largest evacuation in Prague since the disastrous floods in 2002.

Weather

The skies will be mostly overcast in the next few days, with only occasional sunny spells. Daytime temperatures are set to reach up to 13 degrees Celsius.