News

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Czechs to end controversial North Korean labour contracts

The Czech authorities have decided to end the controversial practice of North Koreans working in factories across the country as breadwinners for their authoritarian regime. Tomas Haisman, an interior ministry official responsible for Czech asylum and migration policy, told the AFP news agency that the ministry would not be offering new work permits to North Korean citizens and did not intend to prolong existing ones. Around 400 North Koreans are currently working in the country, mostly as seamstresses. They are kept on a tight leash by government agents and allowed to keep only part of their wages.

Minister Cunek says he can clear his name

Regional Development Minister Jiri Cunek says he can explain the origin of the suspect half a million crowns which he placed in his account in 2002. In a televised debate on Sunday, Mr. Cunek said he had documents to prove that the money was family savings retrieved from Universal Bank following its bankruptcy. The minister said it was money earned before he entered politics and that he had managed to retrieve it thanks to the fact that the savings account was ensured against bankruptcy.

The police suspect Mr. Cunek of having taken a bribe when he was in regional politics and the police have asked for him to be stripped of his immunity. His former secretary is their chief witness, having told the police that her former boss not only accepted the bribe but openly boasted about it. Jiri Cunek, who is also a senator and head of the Christian Democratic Party, has dismissed the accusations saying he would clear his name in court.

Public divided over Cunek case

The Czech public is divided over whether Jiri Cunek should remain in politics. According to a poll conducted by the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily 52 percent of respondents think that Mr. Cunek should resign from all his posts and leave politics. Forty-eight percent of respondents said he should be treated as innocent until proven otherwise.

Protest against US radar base to go ahead despite ban

A protest demonstration against the possible deployment of a US radar base in the Czech Republic will take place in Prague on Monday despite the fact that it has been banned by the Prague city hall. Opponents of the base will meet on Prague's Wenceslas Square before marching to the US Embassy and the Office of Government. Representatives of several dozen civic groups and associations as well as individuals are expected to take part. The city hall banned the protest saying that a march though the city-centre would disrupt traffic.

Former culture minister advocates merger of public radio and television

Former culture minister Viteslav Jandak has suggested merging the country's public radio and public television networks. Mr. Jandak, who is now an opposition deputy for the Social Democratic Party, said a merger of Czech Radio and Czech Television would enable significant cost cutting measures without reducing quality. The newly appointed culture minister Vaclav Jehlicka said he was not against the idea in principle, but noted that both Czech Radio and Czech Television were known to oppose it.

Three people freeze to death in sub-zero temperatures

Three people have frozen to death since the sudden onset of cold weather in the Czech Republic last week. The first was a fifty year old homeless man who died several hours after seeking help in a hospital and being evicted because doctors failed to find anything wrong with him. Police are now investigating the case. Another two cases were reported over the weekend, both men in their fifties who had consumed too much alcohol and had fallen asleep out in the open.

Winter Survival 2007 launched in Jeseniky Mountains

Professional soldiers, military police and mountain rescuers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Belgium have gathered in the Jeseniky Mountains for the 13th annual Winter Survival games organized by the Czech Defence Ministry. Winter Survival is an endurance competition simulating military patrol and rescue operations in unknown and difficult terrain. The four-day competition includes disciplines such as mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, a night spent out in the open and a simulated rescue operation.

Heavy snow, high winds complicate road traffic

Heavy snowfall continues to complicate traffic in the mountain regions and meteorologists have issued a gale warning over the next twenty four hours. Heavy snowfall and high winds could significantly reduce visibility and drivers who are setting out for the country's ski-resorts have been warned not to leave without winter tires, chains and a bagful of sand. Food and drink is also advisable since many vehicles have got stuck in snowdrifts and pileups in the past two or three days.

Weather

The coming days are expected to bring overcast skies and more snow showers with day temperatures hovering at around zero degrees.