News of Radio Prague

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Proceedings against former Communist interior minister suspended for time being

A Prague court has suspended court proceedings against former Communist official Jaromir Obzina, charged with helping to launch the so-called Asance or "Clearance" campaign of the late 1970s and early 80s, which used secret police intimidation and violence to force dissidents to flee former Czechoslovakia. It has now come to light that the court is unclear on Mr Obzina's status, as to whether or not the former Czechoslovak interior minister remains protected by the diplomatic immunity he enjoyed when he was in office. Until the court decides, the proceedings against Mr Obzina may not resume. The decision to postpone the trial has been criticised by the state prosecutor, who says Mr Obzina's immunity ended when he left office. Meanwhile the trials of four other former Communist officials, also charged with abuse of power in the "Clearance" campaign, continue uninterrupted.

Stenzel voted head of delegation committee for Czech Republic accession to the EU

Ursula Stenzel, a member of Austria's governing People's Party and the European parliament, has been voted head of the European Parliament Delegation Committee for the Czech Republic's Accession to the EU, a committee aimed at strengthening ties between the European and Czech parliament. Mrs Stenzel served in the same function for two other EU candidate countries, Poland and Lithuania, after being elected to European parliament in 1996. The former TV and radio commentator, who is well-known for her expertise in Austrian-Czech relations, said she would welcome an improvement in Czech-Austrian ties, although she stressed her role in negotiations was on a European and not bilateral level. Her comments come in reaction to last month's political war of words between the governments of both countries over issues such as the Czech Republic's controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, and the post-World War II Benes Decrees.

Sudeten German association set to sue the Czech Republic over Benes Decrees

A Sudeten German association is preparing to sue the Czech Republic over the Benes Decrees in a Czech court, on the grounds of "rectifying damages resulting from the decrees' infringement on human rights". The Benes Decrees ratified the expulsion of former Czechoslovakia's large German population after World War II, and have recently resurfaced as a sore-spot in Czech-Austrian and Czech-German relations. The Sudeten German group, which is based in Austria, would like to see confiscated property or financial compensation returned to the relatives of expelled Germans. However, at least one Czech legal expert says the current formulation of the group's charge would be thrown out by Czech courts.

CEZ denies charges by American lawyer that Temelin uses extremist-owned uranium

Representatives of the CEZ power utility, which runs the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant, have denied charges by American lawyer Edward Fagan that the plant has been using Australian uranium from mines owned by Japanese extremists, extremists who released the deadly chemical agent Sarin in a Tokyo subway in 1995. CEZ representatives countered on Thursday that the company had never shipped uranium from Australia, but relied on a Czech supplier. CEZ also denied Mr Fagan's charges concerning alleged poor safety in the transport of uranium, a claim that was also rebuffed by representatives of the Czech Republic's State Office for Nuclear Safety on Thursday.

Referendum bill passed in Lower House

Ordinary Czechs may soon be able to play a part in important political decisions in the Czech Republic, after the Czech Lower House passed a new bill Thursday which outlines legislation for calling official referendums. While the legislation may soon be in place, parliament raised the minimum number of signatures needed in public petitions in order to call for official referendums in the Czech Republic: the previous number was 300, 000 signatures, that has now been raised to 500, 000. The bill proposal needed a minimum of three-fifths of parliament support to pass, and must now be ratified by the senate.

European Commission to provide 20 million crowns against money laundering in Czech Rep

The European Commission is preparing to donate over 20 million crowns, or approx. 580, 000 U.S. dollars, for the fight against money laundering in the Czech Republic, as part of the Phare programme. The money will go towards buying new computers, software, seminars, and education programmes in order to help put a dent in financial crime.

Ceremonial opening of Czech Olympic House on Friday: XIX Winter Games set to begin

The Czech Olympic House, just a stone's throw from the Olympic Hockey Arena in Salt Lake City, will receive a grand opening on Friday the 8th of February as the XIX Winter Olympic Games get underway. The House will be the headquarters for Czech athletes to meet with reporters. Among those expected to attend Friday's ceremonial opening: former Minister of Foreign Affairs Madelaine Albright, who is of Czech descent.

Weather

And finally a look at the weather. Thursday night will be damp and slightly colder than in recent days, with temperatures falling to lows of -3 degrees Celsius. Friday will be overcast with showers, with some bright periods. Temperatures in the daytime will range from 3 to 7 degrees Celsius.