News Thursday, JULY 13th, 2000

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U.S. rules post-war confiscation of Sudeten property legal

The United States has ruled that the post-war confiscation of property belonging to Czechoslovakia's large ethnic German community was legally valid. Washington said that recent agreements between the Czech Republic and Germany were historical facts, and that it was not in the interests of the United States to reopen them. Washington also welcomed the recent decision by the German Bundestag not to burden contemporary Czech-German relations with questions of the past. Czechoslovakia's former German community, known as Sudeten Germans, are pressing for compensation for property seized by the Czechoslovak authorities after the war.

Lower house to begin final reading of controversial central bank law

The lower house of the Czech parliament is to begin the final reading of a controversial bill on Thursday to amend the central bank law. Many amendments to the bill have provoked criticism from the central bank and some international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund. The original draft was prepared by the government to bring the Czech central bank in line with European Union norms, but M.P.s have attached a number of amendments to the bill which the central bank says may limit its independence and make conduct of monetary policy difficult. The final vote has been delayed several times. If the lower house approves the bill, it must still be discussed by the upper house, the Senate.

Former SS officer could stand trial for killing Jewish inmates at Terezin

A German public prosecutor has said the trial of a former Waffen SS lieutenant for seven wartime murders in Bohemia would depend largely on testimony from a Canadian university professor. Former SS Lieutenant Julius Viel, who is now 82, was charged last month with murder for shooting seven Jewish concentration camp prisoners in early 1945 as they dug trenches near the Theresienstadt camp in what is now the Czech Republic. The prosecution was launched after university professor Adalbert Lallier, a member of Viel's unit at an SS officers school, broke years of silence and came forward to give evidence against his former colleague. Viel has been judged fit enough to remain in custody.

Maticni street wall erected in Usti nad Labem zoo

Workmen at a zoo in the northern city of Usti nad Labem have begun erecting the infamous Maticni street wall, which shot to international fame last year as the centrepiece of a row over racial segregation. The wall is to replace a metal fence at the zoo's main entrance. Usti nad Labem's Maticni street hurled the Czech Republic into the international spotlight last year, as the local council decided to erect a wall separating a row of houses from a tenement block inhabited by Romanies. The council denied accusations of racial segregation, but was forced to back down by the central authorities in Prague after sharp criticism from human rights organisations and the international media, who accused the Czech Republic of fostering apartheid. The wall was eventually dismantled and sold to Usti's zoo.

Printing error in Czech passports

The Interior Ministry has announced that Czech passports containing a printing error will not be withdrawn, despite media reports that Czech tourists could encounter problems abroad. Czech passports issued since June reportedly contain a printing error in the English word 'surname,' and according to a television report one woman was held by German border police for several hours because they believed her passport was fake. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the authorities had received no official complaints about the passports.

M.P.s rule against lifting Basta immunity

M.P.s in the lower house of parliament have ruled against lifting the parliamentary immunity of Jaroslav Basta, the former Minister without Portfolio responsible for the government's 'Clean Hands' anti-corruption campaign. Mr Basta had been accused of abuse of office for the method in which he obtained information on the privatisation of several state firms. The former minister has maintained his innocence of the charges against him. According to the laws on parliamentary immunity, he cannot be tried for the same offence again.

Weather

And finally a quick look at Thursday's weather forecast. It will be another cool and cloudy day, with scattered showers in places and daytime temperatures ranging from 14 to 18 degrees Celsius.