News Thursday, DECEMBER 30th, 1999

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Nick Carey and this is the news. First, a look at the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:

Former Finance Minister not in need of psychiatric care

The director of the prison services, Kamila Meclova, has announced that former Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda will not require psychiatric care after he suffered a nervous breakdown in Pankrac prison on Monday evening. The former Finance Minister was placed on remand in late November pending his trial for embezzlement. Mr. Svoboda underwent an examination on Wednesday afternoon, and the prison director announced that the former Finance Minister's condition is stable and that he does not need to spend any time in psychiatric care. Mrs. Neclova told journalists that Mr. Svoboda is currently in the prison hospital in Pankrac and will spend a week or two there recovering. The conclusion of the specialists who examined him is that Mr. Svoboda's collapse is the result of the strain caused by his internment in prison.

Czech troops on the lookout in Bosnia a Herzegovina

The Czech troops in the first mechanised unit of the Czech armed forces, which is a part of the SFOR peacekeeping force in Bosnia a Herzegovina, is taking part in measures to increase security at all SFOR bases in the country. This follows the discovery of explosives near to an SFOR base on the outskirts of the capital Sarajevo. The unit's press spokesman, Captain Jindrich Plescher, was unable to divulge exactly what these measures are, but said that they include tighter security at all SFOR checkpoints.

Former secret policeman cancels appeal

A former member of the secret police, convicted for beating priest Vaclav Maly, now a bishop, in 1980, has dropped his appeal against the sentence. Jan Dolansky, a former high ranking member of the secret police in Prague, was convicted in October and sentenced to six months in prison for beating Maly about the face, and punching him in the face and stomach, and threatening him during a half-hour interrogation. The operation was launched as part of a campaign against the dissident members of Charter 77. Dolansky admitted to interrogating Maly, but denied beating him. According to Dolansky's lawyer, the former secret policeman called off his appeal because he did not like the publicity that the case had attracted.

Havel grants amnesty to Roma woman

President Vaclav Havel has granted amnesty to a Roma woman in the North Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem who has been accused of racial slander. The town was the focus of international criticism this year over the building of a wall to separate a Roma housing estate from a non-Roma housing estate. After many months of discussion, the wall was finally put up in October. Shortly after the wall was built, the Roma woman appeared on the country's largest private television station, TV Nova, saying that amongst other things the Czechs were stupid swine. Legal proceedings were begun against her at the beginning of December for raciual slander. President Havel granted the woman amnesty, saying that TV Nova had misused a tense and emotional situation when it interviewed the woman.

Man receives 15-year sentence for bomb attacks

A Prague regional court sentenced a forty-one-year-old man to fifteen years in prison on Wednesday for two bomb attacks carried out in Ostrava in Moravia and Prague in 1998. Marian Monczka was convicted for the bomb blasts, in which three people were seriously injured and two lightly. Monczka admitted his guilt, but claimed throughout his trial that he did not intend to hurt anyone, but wanted to attract the attention of the police. Apparently the defendant's motives were caused by a feeling of injustice he felt for a previous conviction, and a desire to blackmail the police into giving him six million Czech Crowns. When sentencing Monczka, the judge pointed out that the defendant had placed the bombs in places where there were bound to be a lot of people, and therefore must have known that the explosions could have resulted injury or death.

Embarrassment for telecommunications company

The Czech Republic's largest telecommunications company, SPT Telecom, is facing embarrassment over its Y2K preparations. The company, which maintains almost a complete monopoly in fixed line services, boasted recently on the Internet that it has done more than any other Czech competitor to deal with the Y2K problem, or Millennium Bug. Unfortunately, the company suffered a computer bug last week and sent out hundreds of bills demanding payment by January 2nd, 1900. The firm has since sent out corrected bills listing the correct century and millennium, but this is indeed a setback for the company's image.

And finally the weather.

There is a cold front on its way into the Czech Republic and on Thursday we should see cloudy to overcast skies, with snow showers in places. Temperatures during the day should range between minus three and zero degrees centigrade. And that was the news.