News

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Lower house strips Communist MP of immunity

The lower house has voted to strip opposition MP Josef Vondruska of immunity so he can face criminal charges. The MP is suspected of having mistreated prisoners as a prison guard in communist Czechoslovakia. 151 of 154 deputies present voted in favour. The Communist Party MP has dismissed accusations but said he did not wish to avoid prosecution. Fellow CommunistParty deputies left the chamber ahead of the vote. Citing a file on Mr Vondruska, mandate and immunity committee head Miloslav Kala said that Mr Vondruska had tortured a dissident in the 1980s; the former prison-guard allegedly punched the prisoner in the face and beat him repeatedly with a truncheon.

Civic Democrat MP stripped of immunity for charges of alleged drink driving

In related news, another MP, Ondrej Plasil of the Civic Democratic Party, was also stripped of immunity on Wednesday to face charges for drink driving. The MP failed to pass a breathalyser test after being stopped by police in August. The MP has admitted his mistake.

TI: level of corruption in Czech Republic down

The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) has released a report revealing that corruption levels in the Czech Republic have dropped to their lowest in almost a decade. The report - comparing 179 countries - ranks the Czech Republic at the same level as in 1997: 41st, together with Italy. According to TI, after a several year rise corruption in the Czech Republic began to level off in 2003. Analysts attribute the drop to several factors including pressure by the watchdog group, positive economic growth, the better-functioning of some institutions, and the Czech Republic's joining the European Union.

Poll suggests fewer Czechs against radar

A new poll conducted by the STEM agency has suggested that the number of Czechs opposed to a US radar base on Czech territory has lessened, although those against the project remain firmly in the majority. According to the poll, 49 percent are now "against" while those "in favour" number 22 percent. Around half of those surveyed said they would be willing to change their mind on the radar issue if they were provided more information. Most polls until now have suggested that around two-thirds of Czechs were against the idea of a US base on Czech soil.

Former PM faces legal complaint over purchase of shares

Former Social Democrat prime minister Stanislav Gross is facing a legal complaint on the suspicion of insider dealing in connection with the purchase of shares. The complaint was filed by Jiri Jehlicka, of the Central Registry of Debtors (CERD), running web pages and an anti-corruption hotline. According to Mr Jehlicka, Mr Gross may have abused information while in politics in a business deal that has now seen him acquire a reported 300 million crowns (more than 15 million US dollars) worth of shares in energy producer Moravia Energo. Mr Gross himself has valued the shares at a tenth of that amount. The opposition Social Democrats have called on the former prime minister to explain his holdings, with party deputy leader Bohuslav Sobotka saying that although Mr Gross was now a private citizen it was in his interest, as a former prime minister, not to keep information secret.

It has been almost three years since a financial scandal forced Stanislav Gross - then the youngest prime minister in Europe - from office. Mr Gross was unable to explain where he obtained 1.2 million crowns for the purchase of his apartment.

Anti-corruption police begin investigating Gross' holdings

In related news, a spokeswoman for the anti-corruption and organised crime unit has said that members of the unit have begun an investigation into Mr Gross' holdings, despite not having received an official complaint against the former prime minister yet. The spokeswoman said the unit had begun investigating on its "own initiative".

Most EU ministers' meetings to be held in Czech regions

The Czech capital Prague, Brno, south Moravia and Olomouc and Ostrava in north Moravia, are all likely to see informal meetings between EU ministers during the Czech presidency of the EU in 2009. The information was released by the office of the government on Wednesday. Of 11 scheduled informal meetings of EU ministers, seven are to take place in regions and the remaining four in Prague. The deputy prime minister in charge of European Affairs, Alexandr Vondra, discussed the regions' roles in the Czech EU presidency with representatives of the Czech Association of Regions on Wednesday. A final decision on the chosen sites is to be made on October 10th.

Greens to weigh possible successors to Kuchtova in ministerial post

The Green Party has announced it will decide on a successor to outgoing Education Minister Dana Kuchtova on October 7th. This Tuesday, after hours of deliberation amongst the Greens, Ms Kuchtova announced she would step down next week; she had faced increasing pressure following mistakes jeopardising the education sector's ability to draw EU funds. Ms Kuchtova admitted it was not clear who would replace her and said it was uncertain whether the candidate would be a Green Party member. The outgoing minister, who is also a Green Party deputy leader, said she would be able to help her successor for a period of about three weeks.

Lower house overrules senate, making possession of child porn a criminal offence

The possession of child pornography will, in all likelihood, soon be a criminal offence in the Czech Republic: on Wednesday the lower house overruled reservations by the Senate, approving a planned amendment to the Penal Code. Under the legislation, anyone possessing photographic, film, computer, electronic pornographic material featuring minors could face up to two years in prison. The legislation will now have to be signed into law by the president. The lower house first passed the amendment in June, but the Senate returned it for reappraisal, fearing the bill might easily be abused or misapplied.

Former Czech president counters Vaclav Klaus' stance on climate change

Two days after Czech President Vaclav Klaus gave a speech challenging the human impact on climate change at a conference on global warming in New York, his predecessor Vaclav Havel has written an editorial in the International Herald Tribune arguing the impact of global warming must not be ignored. He writes that it is the human race and not the planet which is at risk and says that scientific studies have shown that "changes in temperature and energy cycles on a planetary scale" could prove dangerous "for people on all continents". Mr Havel and Mr Klaus were well-known for differing political views in the past; Vaclav Klaus succeeded Mr Havel as Czech president in February 2003.

Detroit Red Wings trounce Rangers 6:1

Ice hockey's Detroit Red Wings, home to Czech goalie Dominik Hasek, demolished Jaromir Jagr's New York Rangers in an NHL preseason match on Tuesday. Hasek's Red Wings went up 1:0 just 28 seconds into the game. Hasek made 18 saves for Detroit in the game, allowing the Rangers' lone goal with less than three minutes left. Jarmoir Jagr assisted on the goal, which was scored by Scott Gomez.

Weather

Cloudy conditions and rain are expected into Thursday with daytime temperatures reaching highs of around 13 degrees Celsius.