News

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Wider Christian Democrat leadership backs Cunek

The wider Christian Democrat leadership - 53 out of 56 members on Friday - expressed support for embattled party leader Jiri Cunek, facing corruption charges. Mr Cunek himself abstained from taking part in the vote. Mr Cunek, who is also a deputy prime minister, has been accused of accepting a bribe of 500,000 crowns. He has so far refused to step down. Earlier this week Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said that mounting public pressure was likely to eventually force Mr Cunek to leave the cabinet.

Vsetin authorities dismiss Lidove Noviny story as false

In related news, the east Moravian town of Vsetin, where Jiri Cunek was mayor, has denied a story by Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny suggesting inappropriate dealings over 4.5 million crowns (around 250,000 US dollars). The sum was received as a down payment, the daily writes, in the town's sale of its majority stake in its professional ice hockey club. A first payment of 4.5 million crowns was paid out after the sale was agreed with a Russian company, but according to Lidove Noviny the funds later disappeared. Town Hall representatives have dismissed the story as false, saying they did not receive the money at all and will consider suing Lidove Noviny for libel.

Vsetin hockey club chairman Oldrich Stefl has told the media that the 4.5 million, roughly a fifth of the agreed price, were received by the club but invested. The deal then fell through and procedures were begun on the cancellation of the contract. According to Mr Stefl, negotiations with the Russian buyer on the return of the funds will now depend on the final cancellation of the sale.

Pilsen turns down asylum seekers

The West Bohemian town of Pilsen has indicated it will not be able to meet a request by the interior ministry to find homes for three families of Cuban refugees seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. The town made its decision on the grounds that it had only one available property in its housing fund, meaning that not all of the families could be covered. A condition in the request - put forward by Interior Minister Ivan Langer after meeting with representatives of the US Embassy in Prague - was that the three families would be housed in close proximity. Last year two apartments in Pilsen were made available for nationals from Kazakhstan; Pilsen has provided asylum seekers with nineteen apartments since 1995.

Skromach will not challenge Paroubek for party chairman post

Social Democrat deputy chairman Zdenek Skromach has indicated that he has no intention of challenging current party head Jiri Paroubek for leadership of the Social Democrats, holding a three-day party conference to choose or reconfirm party leadership next week. At the same time, Mr Skromach has stated that he hopes to be re-elected as a deputy chairman. In the past the former minister for labour and social affairs was seen as a contender for top post of the Social Democrats. Two years ago he ran but lost to former prime minister Stanislav Gross. Mr Skromach's decision now means that current leader Jiri Paroubek will not face any challengers: the party votes next Friday.

Social Democrat denies news on Zeman criminal complaint

Social Democrat deputy Bohuslav Sobotka has denied reports in the media that his party is weighing whether or not to lodge a criminal complaint against former party chairman Milos Zeman for signing an apparently disadvantageous contract ten years ago. The party has been dealing with demands by lawyer Zdenek Altner, who says he is owed almost 20 billion crowns in overdue payments by the party, for helping it in a past legal case. Mr Sobotka has stated on the internet that reports until now had been "pure speculation". He has indicated that the Social Democratic Party was looking into ways of dealing with the Altner case.

PM: Czech Republic should sign up to ICC

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said the Czech Republic should sign up to the International Criminal Court and end what he has called the "barely sustainable position" of being the only EU state not to have done so. Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Mr Topolanek said the Czech Republic should sign up to the treaty by the time it takes over the EU's presidency in 2009. MPs from Mr Topolanek's own Civic Democratic Party voted down a proposal to sign up to the statute creating the Hague-based court in 2001 because of fears that it would leave Czechs open to international prosecution. The Czech foreign ministry has admitted to the country's current position being an embarrassment.

Man sentenced to ten years in prison in domestic violence case

The high court in the Moravian city of Brno has sentenced Frantisek Krucina from the Karvina region to ten years in prison for inflicting grievous bodily harm resulting in the death of his female partner, a case of domestic violence regarded as one of the most brutal in the Czech Republic in years. The court did not give any weight to the defendant's claims that his girlfriend had somehow injured herself. Evidence uncovered in the case found that Mr Krucina had beaten the victim repeatedly with a blunt object resulting in internal bleeding that led to her death.

Parliamentary session interrupted by leaflet "incident"

An elderly man in the guests' gallery of the Lower House interrupted the house's session on Friday by throwing political leaflets down on the deputies. MPs were debating the proposed Institute for National Memory - meant to compile and improve access to archives of the Communist-era secret police. A member of the Communist party was speaking at the time of the incident. The leaflets thrown by the guest visitor featured images of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin,as well as photos of two members of the Social Democratic Party. The leaflets accused the leader of the Social Democrats of cooperating with the Communists.

Speed skater Sablikova sets new world record in 10,000 metres

Czech speed skater Martina Sablikova set a new world record in the 10,000 metres speed skating event in Calgary, Canada on Thursday to become the first woman skater to finish under the fourteen minute mark. The speed skater, who is just 19, finished with a time of 13:48.33, improving on a record she set last year. Sablikova has enjoyed repeated success in 2007: last weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah she set a new women's world record in the five kilometre race.

Weather

Rain has been forecast for the weekend while strong winds are also expected. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs of around 12 degrees Celsius.