News Friday, FEBRUARY 19th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines and now the news in full, read by Libor Kubik.


Czech President Vaclav Havel has said that the trial of the captured Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan in Turkey should be as much public as possible.

He said in a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem in Prague that this would help to calm down protests by the Kurdish diaspora in Europe against Ocalan's arrest by Turkish authorities.

Havel said he was a staunch opponent of the death penalty. PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who was captured in Kenya earlier this week, is awaiting trial on Turkey's Imrali Island in the Sea of Marmara. He will be charged of high treason, and could face capital punishment.

Ankara has not officially abandoned the death penalty although there have not been any executions carried out in Turkey since 1984.

Havel expressed hope that Turkey will start recognising its Kurdish minority as an ethnic entity.


The embassies of Britain and the United States in Prague remain closed after an unspecified terrorist threat and police were on high alert at several other embassies in the Czech capital.

The American embassy told Radio Prague earlier in the day that based on the information he had, Ambassador John Shattuck thought it was a credible threat and America closed all its installation in Prague.


U.S. government-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague said it had reduced its staff after being informed by the embassy of the threat on Thursday. But the station is still broadcasting according to its regular schedule.


Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said the problems of the stateless Kurdish people should be tackled by democratic means.

But he said that while the Czech Republic could understand the plight of a nation of 24 million people which does not have a state of its own, this country was opposed to all forms of terrorism.


In an unprecedented move, the Czech Constitutional Court in Brno ruled on Thursday that a senator whose mandate was pronounced invalid by the Supreme Court last autumn, may assume her duties.

Senator Dagmar Lastovecka of Brno was prevented from taking her seat in the upper house of the Czech parliament in November after the Supreme Court accepted complaints from the Social Democrats that she continued campaigning well into the 48-hour period right before the vote when such activities are banned.

Some of Senator Lastovecka'a comments were published in a leading Czech paper just a few hours before the polling stations opened.


Czech Army Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy said in Washington on Friday that nothing can now prevent his country's joining NATO next month as scheduled.

Sedivy, who has been visiting the United States since Monday, has had talks in Washington with Defence Under Secretary Franklin Kramer and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry Shelton.


Czech President Vaclav Havel's top political advisor Jiri Pehe announced his resignation on Thursday, saying he will leave office on May 15.

Havel's office said he would be replaced by Pavel Fischer, a senior member of the president's team. Mr Pehe, who is a noted politologist, will take over the post of director of the New York University Centre in Prague.

But he would retain his job as chairman of the board of Forum 2000 and externee aide to President Havel.


Slovakia's former president Michal Kovac is visiting Prague on Friday to promote a foundation he established together with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel four years ago.

Mr Kovac, who is a candidate in Slovakia's planned direct presidential elections, says the foundation is for Czech and Slovak students wishing to acquire academic education in each other's country.


Three German Neo-Nazis pleaded not guilty to charges of using violence against officials when their trial got under way at a court in Budapest on Thursday.

Two Slovaks, a Czech national and two Hungarians are also being tried on the same charges.

Prosecutors charge that the defendants threw beer bottles at police officers at a Neo-Nazi meeting in the Hungarian capital last Saturday.

The eight on trial face prison terms of up to five years if convicted.


Romano Hangos, or The Romany Voice, is the name of a new bi-weekly magazine which hit the newsstands across the Czech Republic on Thursday.

The bi-lingual publication, released by the Brno-based Association of Romanies in Moravia, is partly sponsored by the Czech government.

Editor in Chief Karel Holomek told Czech Radio that Romano Hangos would strive to be a credible and unbiased source of information for all those who are dealing with the Roma problem in the Czech Republic. He said texts in Romany would be provided with Czech translations.

Romanies have been increasingly the victims of racist attacks in the Czech Republic.


Finally, today's weather. Expect more snow showers and drizzling rain from the west. Daytime highs between one below and three above freezing point, and one degree below zero in most mountain areas.

I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.