News of Radio Prague

Rent regulation lifted

The government has lifted the administrative regulation of rent, a move which liberalises the housing market in the Czech Republic. A new law approved by the cabinet on Wednesday would allow owners to determine rent prices. Until now, they have had to observe regulations allowing only minor increase each year. The state will intervene only in cases when the landlord and tenant are unable to agree. The system resembles that applied in Germany which makes it possible for property owners to increase rent while protecting tenants against excessive rises. Last year the Czech Constitutional Court ruled that administrative rent regulation was unconstitutional and cancelled the relevant government directive.

Czech diplomats seek support for anti-Cuban resolution

Czech diplomats are continuing in their efforts to gain support for a resolution condemning human rights violations in Cuba. The Czech Republic is intensively seeking support from countries in Latin America, following Poland's decision to withdraw as co-author of the resolution, to be submitted to the UN human rights Commission. The United States Secretary of State Colin Powell described the resolution as a priority at the Geneva human rights conference. He said though that the United States had difficulties with an addition to the resolution which deems economic sanctions against Cuba as counterproductive.

Former Communist minister accused of power abuse

A former Czechoslovak interior minister faces criminal charges in connection with the repression of the anti-Communist dissident movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Officials of the Bureau for the Documentations and Investigation of Crimes of Communism have asked state prosecutors to charge ex-minister Jaromir Obzina with abuse of office. The deputy head of the Bureau, Pavel Bret, said that the accused used physical and psychological torture, including beatings and threats, in an attempt to silence the dissidents. If convicted, Obzina could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. The Bureau was formed in 1995 and since then, it has uncovered more than 3,000 alleged crimes of former Communists, but only a handful have led to convictions.

Politicians mark 150 anniversary of Masaryk's birth

Senior Czech politicians have paid tribute to the founder of independent Czechoslovakia and the first Czechoslovak president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, and numerous foreign ambassadors laid wreaths at Masaryk's grave in Lany, a presidential retreat near Prague. A solemn ceremony was also held at Masaryk's statue at Prague Castle to mark the 151 anniversary of his birth. Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, a philosopher, sociologist and one of the most outstanding personalities in Czech history, is often described as a symbol of humanity and democracy, and scholars say most of his ideas can still be applied to present-day society.

Chvalovsky allowed to visit Switzerland

The president of the Czech Football Association, Frantisek Chvalovsky, who faces charges of large-scale fraud, has been allowed to leave the country to visit Switzerland. Mr Chvalovsky is accused of misappropriating bank loans totalling around 17 million USD for his private company. He was released from detention last Thursday on bail, and gave assurances that he would not leave the country without permission. Mr Chvalovsky was granted permission to travel to Switzerland, after saying he needed to look for ways to repay his debts.

Czech weather report

And finally, a brief look at the weather. On Thursday, weather in the Czech Republic will be influenced by a low pressure area from the West. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered showers. The highest daytime temperatures should range from 7 to 11 degrees Celsius. Friday and Saturday should be much the same, cloudy with rain, and with afternoon highs up to 12 degrees Celsius.