News Thursday, JULY 29th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Rob Cameron, first the news headlines.

Those were the headlines, now for the news in more detail.

Record number of Czech Roma asylum-seekers in Britain

The number of Czech Roma or gypsies seeking asylum in Britain has reached record levels. The British embassy released a statement on Wednesday saying that almost 150 Czech citizens had requested asylum in Britain in June. The figure only refers to the member of the family filing the claim, and so the real number is believed to be as least three times higher. There were almost 600 asylum requests from Czech citizens in the first six months of this year, more than the entire figure for 1998. While the authorities in Britain say they are not taking steps to re-introduce visas for Czechs, London has repeatedly threatened to do so in the past if the situation fails to improve. Britain re-imposed visas for Slovak citizens recently following a similar wave of Roma asylum-seekers. Roma in both countries say they are subject to sweeping racial discrimination. The authorities say they are mostly economic migrants.

Government approves new anti-extremist measures

The government has passed new measures to counter extremist groups in the Czech Republic, in the wake of repeated pledges by the Premier Milos Zeman to ban neo-Nazi skinhead groups. The new plans propose the disbanding of two extreme-right organisations registered with the Interior Ministry as civic associations. The two organisations have protested against the move, saying they are patriotic groups. The government wants the police, state prosecutors and the courts to come down harder on perpetrators of racist crimes, while the Education Ministry has been given the task of teaching children human rights and racial tolerance.

Police confirm Haushalter being prosecuted for risky loans

Investigators have confirmed that the former director of IPB Bank Karel Haushalter is being prosecuted for issuing a number of risky loans. Mr Haushalter issued the loans during his time at the IPB branches in Strakonice and Karlovy Vary between 1993 and 1995. Mr Haushalter is also the deputy chairman of the supervisory body of the Skoda Plzen engineering works. If convicted he faces up to 12 years in prison.

Chinese migrants returned after crossing German border illegally

A group of thirty-three Chinese citizens have been returned to the Czech Republic after being smuggled illegally into Germany on Monday. Czech police say the group was smuggled across the border by two Vietnamese and two German men. Meanwhile the Austrian authorities have detained some 68 Romanian migrants, including 24 children, who entered the country illegally from the Czech Republic on Thursday. They will be returned to the Czech Republic after registration.

Man sentenced for 1998 murder of toddler

A nineteen-year-old man has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for the brutal murder of a toddler in April last year. The man, David Kucera, strangled, beat and kicked four-year-old Jan Bunda as he was playing near his home in West Bohemia. He then wrapped the dead boy´s body in plastic bags and hid it behind a garage, where it was discovered the next day.

Police say train derailment "schoolboy prank"

Police say a schoolboy prank was responsible for last week´s railway accident in East Bohemia in which a local train was derailed. A police spokesman said two local schoolboys had placed rocks on the tracks out of curiosity. None of the 30 passengers were injured in the accident, but railway officials said the derailment had caused more than 200,000 crowns worth of damage. The spokesman said in view of their age the boys would not be prosecuted, but warned parents to pay greater attention to the whereabouts of their children during the summer holidays.

Weather report

Finally a quick look at the weather. Thursday will be another clear and sunny day, with daytime temperatures up to 27 degrees Celsius, falling to lows of 11 degrees at night.

And that's the end of the news.