News Friday, MARCH 31st, 2000

Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Rob Cameron, and we start the programme with a brief news bulletin. First the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now for the news in detail.

Amnesty International: Czech Roma face real persecution

A new report issued by the international human rights organisation Amnesty International says Romanies continue to face real persecution in many parts of Europe, including the Czech Republic. The report says countries in Central and Eastern Europe frequently do nothing about verbal and physical attacks on their Roma populations. The director of Amnesty International's British branch, Kate Allen, criticised the British authorities for automatically refusing asylum claims filed by Romanies. Almost 2,000 Roma families from the Czech Republic requested asylum in Britain last year.

Klaus: Prague should keep customs union with Bratislava

The chairman of the lower house of Parliament, Vaclav Klaus, has said his country should maintain its customs union with Slovakia, even if the Czech Republic becomes a member of the European Union before its former federal partner. Mr Klaus, speaking after talks with the Slovak deputy Prime Minister Pavel Hamzik, said the two men had discussed European integration and what he termed the EU's 'strange reaction' to the entrance of the far-right Freedom Party to the Austrian government. Mr Klaus, who has marked Eurosceptic views, heavily criticised the EU's decision to isolate Vienna earlier this year.

Zeman reiterates support for EU's isolation of Austria

Meanwhile the Prime Minister Milos Zeman has reiterated his support for the EU's policy towards Vienna. Mr Zeman, speaking on a visit to Finland, said the far-right Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider represented a threat not just to Austria but to the whole of Europe. Prime Minister Zeman is in the Finnish capital Helsinki for talks on trade and bilateral relations.

Former Communist official charged over 1968 invasion

A former senior Communist Party official, Vasil Bilak, has been charged with treason by the Slovak authorities for his role in the 1968 Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia. Mr Bilak is believed to be among officials behind the so-called 'letter of invitation' sent by Communist hard-liners to Moscow in August 1968, which was used as a pretext for the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Mr Bilak, now 82, chose Slovak citizenship when Czechoslovakia split in 1993 and has thus avoided prosecution by the Czech authorities.

German police return refugees to Czech Republic

Police in Bavaria have returned a group of 56 refugees who crossed the Czech-German border illegally earlier this week. The group included refugees from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and India. They told police they had paid up to 10,000 marks each for their passage. The refugees and two Czech lorry drivers were detained near the Bavarian town of Ahorn in Southern Germany on Tuesday.

Court postpones Zelezny rape case for eleventh time

A court in Prague has postponed a case against David Zelezny, son of the media tycoon Vladimir Zelezny, for the eleventh time since proceedings began in 1998. David Zelezny stands accused of raping a twenty-year-old girl in 1994. He was initially found not guilty of the charges, when a court ruled in 1996 that the girl had failed to prove her lack of consent to sexual intercourse after meeting him in a club. Mr Zelezny was freed from prison last year, after serving a sentence for a separate rape committed in 1995.

Police say man won't be tried for shooting thief

Investigators in North Bohemia say they will not be prosecuting a man who shot dead a thief during a bungled robbery on his neighbour's farm. The incident happened after two men broke into the farm near the town of Ceska Lipa. One of the men had seized the farmer's shotgun during a scuffle. The robber was shot dead by a neighbour responding to the farmer's cries for help. The regional state prosecutor said the neighbour had acted within the bounds of the law on self-defence.


And I´ll end as usual with a quick look at the weekend's weather forecast. Saturday will be overcast with showers in places, Sunday will be a bit brighter, but still with the chance of scattered showers. Temperatures will range from six to ten degrees Celsius in the daytime, falling to one degree at night.

I'm Rob Cameron, and that's the end of the news.