News

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Pressure grows on Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek to resign

Coalition leaders are to meet later today to decide the fate of Deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat chairman Jiri Cunek who is charged with corruption. The case has dragged on for weeks now and despite growing pressure on him to resign Mr. Cunek has refused to do so. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on Monday that Mr. Cunek's continued presence in government was untenable and that the door would be open for him to return if he was able to clear his name. The Green Party has also indicated that Jiri Cunek's presence in the cabinet is unwelcome. The Christian Democratic Party leadership, which has stood by its chairman throughout the crisis, said on Tuesday it would leave the decision in Mr. Cunek's hands. Mr Cunek is accused of taking a bribe when he was mayor of the town of Vsetin five years ago.

Police anti-corruption squad raids Defense Ministry

Police are searching the premises of the Czech Defense Ministry and several private firms on suspicion of corruption in a number of public tenders. According to the head of the anti-corruption squad several Defense Ministry employees and a number of private companies are suspected of having been involved in large-scale fraud and corruption. One hundred and eighty officers are on the case. No one has yet been charged.

Czech government calls on Lukashenko to release political opponents

The Czech government has called on Belarus to release some seventy protesters who were arrested during a demonstration against President Alexander Lukashenko's regime on Sunday. "We call for the immediate release of all political prisoners and for the respect of human rights and democratic values in Belarus," the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Police and paratroopers on Sunday prevented up to 1,500 Lukashenko opponents from protesting in the same Minsk square where unprecedented rallies shook the former Soviet republic a year ago. The Czech Foreign Ministry said that Sunday's crack down on protesters in Minsk Square had once again confirmed the non-democratic nature of Alexander Lukashenko's regime. The Belarussian president has been in power since 1994. He was re-elected last year but international observers said the vote was rigged.

Czech Republic to join Schengen at the end of this year

Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer said after talks in Portugal on Tuesday that he firmly believed that the Czech Republic would join the Schengen border free zone at the end of this year. At a meeting in Lisbon the interior ministers of the EU newcomer states received from Portuguese representatives a package of information technologies necessary for the planned expansion. The SISone4all package is a software solution proposed by Portugal that will allow the new EU members to join Schengen by extending the existing EU police data base. Technical problems with setting up a new base threatened to postpone the process of expansion.

School bullying on the increase

It has come to light that two twelve year old girls attempted to commit suicide late last year because of class bullying. The girls apparently slashed their wrists but were found in time by their parents. The case has been brought to light by the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily in connection with the growing incidence of bullying in Czech schools and so called happy-slapping, a relatively new phenomenon in the Czech Republic. Surveys suggest that around 40 percent of primary school children have experienced some form of bullying.

Culture Minister suggests Church should be compensated for confiscated property

Culture Minister Vaclav Jehlicka has suggested that the Church should receive financial compensation for property confiscated by the communist regime that now remains in state or council ownership. Mr. Jehlicka told Tuesday's edition of Pravo that he would meet with Archbishop Jan Graubner to discuss the possibility. According to estimates the overall compensation sum would reach one billion crowns and the culture minister admitted that the state was not in a position to pay a lump sum. He suggested an annual settlement over a longer period of time.

Social Democrat grassroots organization disbands after former leader quits party

A grassroots Social Democrat organization in the Moravian Highlands, currently home-base of the former Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman, has announced its decision to disband. The head of the organization said the decision was approved unanimously as a show of support for Mr. Zeman who quit party ranks last week after being accused of having harmed his party financially when he was still its chairman. The decision was sparked by an ongoing row between Mr. Zeman, who led the Social Democrats for eight years and helped make the party one of the strongest forces in Czech politics, and the party's present leader Jiri Paroubek.

Czechs hoping to sell flop military planes to Nigeria

The Czech Republic is in negotiations with Nigeria over the sale of Czech-made military planes. If a deal to sell 10 to 15 L-159 jets to Nigeria goes through it will be the first time maker Aero Vodochody has managed to sell the planes abroad. The only buyer so far has been the Czech Army, which does not use most of the planes it purchased. Czech Deputy Defence Minister Martin Bartak said Nigeria was also interested in the Czech-made Vera radar system.

Czechs top per capita recyclers in EU

Czechs were the top recyclers of plastics in the European Union last year, according to a report released by the European Commission. At the same time the Czech Republic produced the least non-recyclable plastic packaging per capita. The report found that 69 percent of Czechs recycle; only 3 percent of the population do not have access to recycling facilities.

Nine year jail sentence for brutal assault on eighty year old man

The High Court in Olomouc has sentenced a twenty three year old man to nine years in jail for inflicting grievous bodily harm on a helpless eighty year old pensioner. The brutal assault took place in a deserted street and the old man was left lying unconscious with severe head injuries while the attacker made off with 400 crowns stolen from his wallet. He claimed to have been on drugs at the time and was also serving a suspended sentence for previous assaults.

Overall confidence in Czech economy on the rise

Overall confidence in the Czech economy grew both month-on-month and year-on-year in March reaching the highest level in history, according to a report published by the Czech Statistical office on Tuesday. The overall confidence indicator rose by one point against February and by 5.5 points against March. The business confidence indicator increased by 6.4 points year on year, while consumer confidence grew by 1.8 points.

Czech crown -trading

The Czech crown strengthened against the euro but dipped to the dollar on Tuesday morning, trading at 28.02 crowns to the euro and 20.98 to the US dollar. Tuesday's report on the development of economic confidence indicators has reportedly had no impact on the money market.

Vaidisova through to quarter-finals in Miami

Czech tennis star Nicole Vaidisova has reached the quarter-finals of the Miami Open. She beat Vera Dushineva of Russia 6-2 6-4. In men's tennis, Radek Stepanek beat Columbia's Alejandro Falla to reach the third round. But Tomas Berdych is out in Miami - he lost to Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina.

Tennis: Ales Kodat named captain of the Fed Cup team

The father and coach of top ranked Czech tennis player Nicole Vaidisova, Ales Kodat, was named non-playing captain of the country's Fed Cup team on Tuesday, the Czech agency CTK reported. Kodat, 40, will lead the Czech team, likely to include his daughter who is ranked eighth worldwide, against neighbours Slovakia for their World Group II first round clash on April 21-22 in Bratislava. Kodat replaces Tomas Petera, who stepped down after two years to help Prague's bid to host the summer Olympic Games in 2016.

Weather

The next few days are expected to bring sunny, warm weather with afternoon highs at around 14 degrees Celsius.