News Thursday, MARCH 16th, 2000

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik and here's the news.


The Czech government has agreed to allow expatriates still holding citizenship to vote in national elections from embassies abroad.

Deputy Prime Minister for Legislative Affairs Pavel Rychetsky told a news conference that the draft amendment would be included in an electoral reform law.

Tens of thousands of Czechs emigrated during communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989. After democratic elections returned a decade ago, many of them have asked to have the right to vote from abroad.

Government spokesman Libor Roucek said the bill would also enable the winning party to form a majority cabinet with one smaller party without having to see its parliamentary seats redistributed in two mandatory vote counts.

The change of the election law has been agreed upon by the ruling Social Democrats and the main- opposition Civic Democrats under a deal which enabled the Social Democrats to form a minority cabinet after an inconclusive election almost two years ago.


Czech President Vaclav Havel cancelled state visits to Turkey and Romania scheduled for next week after an inflammation of his chronic bronchitis forced him to receive hospital treatment.

But on Wednesday, Mr. Havel met in hospital the outgoing Minister without Portfolio Jaroslav Basta, whom Prime Minister Milos Zeman dropped earlier this week as part of a government reshuffle. Mr. Basta was responsible for the coordination of secret services, whose performance Zeman has criticised as very poor. But on Wednesday, the prime minister changed his tone and praised Mr. Basta for his achievements in an anti-corruption drive.


The Czech Bishops Conference has denied that Cardinal Miloslav Vlk's trip to Vienna on Wednesday had political connotations although it took place at the invitation of Austrian President Thomas Klestil.

The Czech Catholic Primate Vlk, and the Hussite Church's Patriarch Josef Spak, were in Vienna for a symposium on the medieval Czech religious reformer Jan Hus.

The Bishops Conference spokesman Daniel Herman said the visit had been non-political and was in no way connected with Austria's internal policy or its international isolation because of the presence of the far-right Freedom Party in the country's new government.


The Czech Foreign Ministry on Wednesday condemned the latest violence in Iran where it said anti-democratic forces were trying to destabilise the situation and slow down a positive political development.

Earlier this week, unidentified assailants shot and wounded an adviser to the reform-minded Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, and People's Mojahedeen staged a mortar attack in Tehran.

February's election wins for the reformers have been welcomed by many states including the Czech Republic, whose deputy foreign minister is due to visit Iran in April.


The Czech interior ministry and police have expressed concern over threats reportedly issued by an obscure nationalistic group against government and public officials.

A group calling itself the Moravian Territorial Army earlier this week said in a letter that on Wednesday it would start executing public figures, including the president, who it said had discriminated against Moravia and its people. Moravia is the eastern part of the Czech Republic.

Security experts have indicated that the group in fact may not exist and the letter may have been a hoax.


A Prague court on Wednesday sentenced former British disc-jockey Chris Denning to four and a half years in prison for sexual abuse of eight teenage boys.

Mr. Denning was arrested in late 1997 along with three other men -- two Frenchmen and an American -- for having sought out boys as young as 12 years in Prague discotheques and seducing them with promises of money and gifts. The three accomplices received sentences of between three and three and a half years. The maximum sentence for the crime is eight years.

The trial received a measure of international notoriety because Mr. Denning delivered a closing statement in his defence that lasted for over 50 hours and delayed sentencing for almost three months. During the course of his speech, a court translator suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be replaced.


And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather.

After nighttime lows around freezing point, Thursday will be a wet day with frequent rain and snow showers and maximum temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius, dropping to zero at night.

On Friday and Saturday, cold northwestern air will continue to pour into the Czech Republic sending temperatures to around freezing point during both days.

I am Libor Kubik and that's the news.