News

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Czech and Polish PMs for missile defence system; Russia says it will target proposed installations

The Czech Republic and Poland will probably give their consent to the construction of a new US missile defence system on their territory, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and his Polish counterpart Jaroslaw Kaczynski have announced. Both prime ministers said after a meeting in Warsaw that they would probably react positively to a US request to build a rocket base in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic. They also said that they did not expect a referendum on the issue to be held in their countries.

Meanwhile, the commander of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, Nikolay Solovtsov, has told journalists that if the Polish and Czech bases are built, the Russian army would aim some of its missiles at the facilities.

Lawyer suing Social Democrats rejects out-of-court settlement

On Monday, the Czech Social Democrats said they offered to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with a lawyer who is suing the party for money he claims he is owed for legal services. Zdenek Altner claims he is owed 19 billion crowns or 889 million US dollars from the Social Democrats for services he gave them in a legal dispute over the ownership of the party's headquarters in the 1990s. The Constitutional Court eventually ruled that the Social Democrats could keep their party building in 2000. Mr Altner says his contract with the Social Democrats meant he was entitled to money amounting to 10% of the value of the property or 93 million Czech crowns (4.3 million USD), which eventually rose to 19 billion crowns due to fines and late-payment penalties. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek said his party's offer included a sum that the Social Democrats thought was acceptable. He also said Mr Altner's demands were exaggerated and unsubstantiated and would not stand up in court.

Illegal wiretaps cause for compensation

The Czech Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil has said he intends to introduce legislation that would allow Czechs whose phones have been illegally wiretapped by the police to claim compensation. Under a proposed amendment to the penal code, Mr Pospisil intends to make it obligatory for police to inform people whose phones were bugged within one year of the completion of the investigation in question. They would then have the right to file a compensation lawsuit if they thought the bugging was illegal. The draft legislation also tightens the rules under which wiretapping would be allowed. If passed, bugging would only be permitted if the information and proof the police need cannot be obtained in any other way.

Deputy Prime Ministr Jiri Cunek faces fresh allegations regarding his investments

A Czech Radio station has reported that Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek, who is currently facing corruption charges, made a substantial property investment in 2000 but has not yet explained the circumstances surrounding the deal. The Radio Cesko station reported that the Christian Democrat politician bought a share worth 500,000 Czech crowns or 23,000 US dollars in a holiday cabin in Jeseniky, North Moravia. Mr Cunek has admitted that he made the investment but has declined to give any details about the transaction. The deputy prime minister was recently charged by police with taking a bribe from a building company when he was mayor of the town of Vsetin five years ago.

Evicted Romany families should receive money, minister says

Ten Roma families that were evicted from the North Moravian town of Vsetin last autumn as rent-defaulters and moved to rundown buildings in the Moravian Jeseniky region may be given some subsidies for basic repairs to their dwellings, Czech Minister without Portfolio Dzamila Stehlikova told journalists on Monday. The Green Party minister said she wanted wanted to obtain a total of 1.5 million crowns for this purpose and would be submitting a proposal to the government in about a month. The Roma families were evicted from a dilapidated tenant house in the centre of Vsetin last October by the then mayor Jiri Cunek, who is now Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Christian Democrats. Ms Stehlikova said that the conditions in which the Roma are living in Jeseniky are miserable. Some of their houses don't have any drinking water or proper sewerage.

Witness claims Senator Spacek knowingly collaborated with communist secret police

A witness has come forward to testify that Christian Democrat Senator Milan Spacek cooperated knowingly with the communist secret police, the StB. Jitka Nagy, one of the people Mr. Spacek allegedly reported on to the StB told Monday's Hospodarske Noviny that he had explained privately to her that he had to cooperate with the StB in order to be able to visit his father in then West Germany. Senator Spacek maintains that he was not aware of the fact that the StB was pumping him for information. If proved otherwise, Senator Spacek would be expelled from the Christian Democrat Party, which has said it will not tolerate former StB collaborators in its ranks.

Police investigating death of football club owner

The police are investigating the death of Zdenek Smetana, owner of the first-division football club FC Viktoria Plzen. Smetana was found dead in his flat on Friday night, and the evidence suggests he shot himself with a legally held gun. The police are still waiting for the results of the autopsy and investigating the state of Mr. Smetana's businesses in order to ascertain why he should have wanted to kill himself.

Two thirds of Czechs support current level of presidential powers

Almost two thirds of Czechs say that the powers of the president should be retained at their current level according to a new poll. The survey conducted by the CVVM agency in January shows that 59% of Czechs think the president should keep his current level of authority, a marked increase since 2002. A majority of those polled also said that the president should only be able to interfere in the activities of the government to a limited extent, that he should appoint ministers on the prime minister's recommendation and keep his involvement in foreign policy issues in line with the objectives pursued by the cabinet and the ministry of foreign affairs.

Police ease security measures at Prague's Ruzyne Airport

This morning Czech police eased anti-terrorism measures at Prague's Ruzyne Airport, which have been in place since last Wednesday. The airport had been on a state of high alert after police received information from a woman claiming to be a psychic that an aircraft was going to be attacked. Police said they had been duty bound to take the threat seriously as the woman did not act anonymously and had very specific information about the planes that were to be targeted. The Prima commercial television station reported that flights to Israel had been the subject of most concern.

Weather

The next couple of days are expected to be cloudy with sunny intervals. Highest daytime temperatures should range between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius.