News Friday, SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2000

By Rob Cameron

From Monday September 18th Radio Prague's broadcasts in English on the f101.1 FM frequency in Prague will change. Instead of our current times of 7.15am, 1.15pm and 5.30pm, we will broadcast a fifteen-minute programme at 9.45am, and our half-hour programme will move to the later time of 9.30 in the evening. You will also be able to hear our broadcasts not only in Prague but also on the BBC's FM frequencies in other Czech towns and cities.

IPB commission head files charges against Mertlik for giving false testimony

The head of a parliamentary commission investigating the near collapse and subsequent sale of one of the country's largest banks, has filed criminal charges against the Czech Finance Minister for giving false testimony. Miroslav Kalousek, an MP for the opposition Christian Democrats, said Minister Pavel Mertlik had lied to the commission, which was set up to investigate the dramatic take over of Investicni a Postovni Banka, or IPB. The bank was saved from collapse when the government intervened and ordered it to be placed under forced administration. Days later, it was sold to another large bank, CSOB. Earlier the commission issued a report, acknowledging that the government and the central bank had had no option but to intervene to save IPB from collapse. Mr Mertlik has denied lying to the commission.

Austrian protestors paralyse Czech border

Austrian protestors opposed to the launch of the Temelin nuclear power station in South Bohemia say they will block all border crossings between the Czech Republic and Austria today. Six out of seven border crossings in the Brno region were blocked by 8 o'clock this morning, and more are expected to follow. Unlike previous protests, the blockades are expected to last all day, paralysing the Czech Republic's main route to Southern Europe. The Czech government ignored three previous blockades, saying they would not be forced to negotiate under pressure.

Czech cyclist expelled from Olympics after positive doping test

The Czech cyclist Jan Hruska has been expelled from the Sydney Olympics following confirmation of a positive drugs test taken during the recent Tour of Spain. Hruska was due to ride in the road time trial on September 30, but tests have confirmed the presence of the banned steroid nandralone in his urine, automatically disqualifying him from competing in the games. Hruska is the first Czech athlete to be expelled from the Sydney Olympics.

Czech police turn away 200 anti-IMF protestors

The Czech police have said they've turned away almost 200 activists from the country's borders, to minimise disruption to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings in Prague. Police are reportedly working from a blacklist of activists provided by foreign security agencies, to prevent what they describe as troublemakers from entering the country. The Czech police expect up to 20,000 people to arrive in Prague to protest against the policies of the World Bank and the IMF. Large demonstrations are expected in the Czech capital, ahead of Tuesday's official opening day of the meetings, although for the meantime the streets of Prague remain calm. The city's massive Strahov stadium, which will house some 15,000 activists, opened its doors at 9am on Thursday - but so far less than two dozen protestors have turned up.

New poll: Social Democrats back on top

A new opinion poll shows the ruling Social Democrats returning to first place for the first time since April 1999. The poll, carried out by the state-run Institute for Public Opinion Research, showed the party on 25 percent - 3 points ahead of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, which previously dominated the polls. The Communist Party emerged in third place with 15 percent. Other polls have confirmed the Social Democrats enjoying a rise in support in recent months, which analysts say is due to an upswing in the economy in 2000. The Social Democrats formed a minority cabinet in 1998, thanks to a controversial power-sharing pact with the Civic Democrats.

Retrial of Krnov skinhead arson attack

A court in the eastern town of Krnov begins a new hearing on Friday into an arson attack on a local Roma family, in which a woman narrowly escaped death. Three local youths, whom police describe as far-right skinheads, were set free last year, after a court ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict them of the attack. The verdict was overturned after a storm of criticism from human rights groups and Roma activists, who say the Czech authorities are indifferent to violent attacks by far-right skinheads.

Czech businessman stopped at border by Romanian police

A Czech businessman barred from leaving Romania while police investigate the murder of a union boss has been stopped at a border crossing. Romanian police said Frantisek Priplata had been stopped at a border crossing in northwestern Romania, and was taken to the prosecutor's office. He was later released from custody. Mr Priplata was banned from leaving Romania last week while police investigate the killing of Virgil Sahleanu, a union leader at the Tepro pipemaking firm in the town of Iasi. Priplata represents the interests of a Czech metallurgical company which acquired a majority stake in Tepro two years ago.

Man dies from making home-made wine

A man from the south Moravian town of Breclav has died after inhaling carbon dioxide fumes from fermenting grapes, as he was making a popular Moravian drink called Burcak. The man collapsed and suffocated to death in his wine cellar, which police say lacked proper ventilation. A local wine expert said many people in Moravia underestimated the risks of making their own wine in poorly-ventilated cellars.


And finally a look at the weekend's weather - Saturday will see a band of high pressure moving across the Czech Republic, bringing clear skies and sunshine. Daytime temperatures will reach a maximum of 17 degrees Celsius.