News Wednesday, JANUARY 17th, 2001

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By: Vladimir Tax

Czech Ministry: Pilip arrest in Cuba absurd

The Czech Foreign Ministry has not received any official statement from the Cuban authorities concerning last week's arrest of two Czech citizens in Cuba, after meeting opponents of Fidel Castro's regime. Cuba have accused the former Czech Finance Minister and now member of parliament Ivan Pilip and a former student dissident Jan Bubenik of conspiring against the Revolution and the two are now facing trial. The Czech Foreign Ministry has issued two protest notes, demanding that the two be released from detention immediately. The ministry described the allegations as fabricated and said the whole case was a flagrant violation of international law. The two Czechs have so far been denied contact with the Czech embassy in Cuba and legal assistance.

Freedom House sympathises With Pilip And Bubenik

Meanwhile, the prestigious American non-governmental organisation Freedom House has expressed solidarity with the two Czechs arrested in Cuba. The organisation urged the international community to condemn the act and exert pressure on the Cuban government to release them. Freedom House is the first major non-governmental organisation which has supported Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik.

TV staff remains on strike, negotiations fruitless

The Trade Unions of Czech Television staff and the station's management have failed to reach an agreement. Rebel reporters are still on strike even though the controversial general manager Jiri Hodac stepped down and the TV Council which appointed him was removed. The rebels demand that the new management installed by Jiri Hodac be removed as well which the other party rejects. There have been two rounds of talks mediated by the Czech Chamber of Trade Unions but none of them produced any visible results. The negotiations are expected to continue on Wednesday.

Czechs Ban Beef Imports From Italy And Austria

The Czech Republic has banned beef imports from Italy and Austria effective today due to concerns over mad cow disease. The measure was announced on Tuesday by the head of the state veterinary inspection office, Josef Holejsovsky. He said two laboratories had been set up to help increase the number of tests for mad cow disease by at least 10 times. Mr. Holejsovsky said there have so far been no cases either of BSE or its human form, new variant CJD, reported in the Czech Republic. Late last year the Czech Republic banned beef and beef product imports from all EU countries which have reported BSE cases or suspected cases. Only imports from Sweden and Finland are now allowed.

Weather forecast

And finally, a the weather forecast. We are expecting a rather cloudy day with morning fog and low cloud formations which may dissolve in some places during the course of the day. The highest daytime temperatures should range from minus 5 to minus 1 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.