• 08/23/2004

    The Speaker of the Lower House Lubomir Zaoralek has called a meeting of all parliamentary party leaders, ahead of Tuesday's debate. They are to discuss a scandal which erupted in Parliament last week when Freedom Union deputy Zdenek Koristka accused the opposition Civic Democrats of offering him a ten million crown bribe to bring down the government in Tuesday's vote.

    Mr. Koristka said later he was not the only one approached and he urged other MPs with similar experiences to speak out. The incident has resulted in counter accusations levelled against the Social Democrats, and the Civic Democrats say they will file charges against Mr. Koristka for allegedly spreading lies about them. The Speaker of Parliament said the accusations were a serious blow to Parliament's credibility and should be thoroughly investigated.

  • 08/23/2004

    Ales Sulc, the current head of the interior ministry's security department, is to replace Pavel Pribyl as head of the government's office. Pribyl was forced to resign from the post due to growing public pressure when it emerged that in 1989 he commanded a riot police unit sent to break up anti-communist protests in the streets of Prague. Ales Sulc is a former dissident and signatory of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto. Mr. Sulc has confirmed that he accepted the Prime Minister's offer on Friday. His appointment has yet to be approved by the government.

  • 08/23/2004

    The police have arrested a youth who beat up a doctor called out to attend to an intoxicated man. The emergency medical team was called out to attend to a man who had allegedly collapsed but when they arrived on the spot they found a group of highly intoxicated men - with the alleged patient being merely very drunk. When they were getting back into the ambulance one of the men - a 19 year old - attacked the doctor and smashed the ambulance window. A night watchman who arrived on the scene and attempted to help was injured in the face by bits of flying glass. The doctor suffered concussion and a broken nose. There have been several cases of doctors and ambulance personnel attacked by drunks since the beginning of this year.

  • 08/22/2004

    Freedom Union MP Zdenek Koristka, who says he was offered a bribe by the opposition Civic Democrats to bring down the government, has called on other coalition deputies who have had similar experiences to say so publicly. Mr Koristka says the Civic Democrats offered him 10 million crowns (over 300,000 euros) not to support the government in a vote of confidence on Tuesday.

    The party strongly denies the claim, and chairman Mirek Topolanek said he was considering filing slander charges over the matter, which is currently being investigated by the police.

    President Vaclav Klaus commented on the issue on Sunday, saying he knew Mr Koristka and did not regard him as completely trustworthy. Mr Klaus said he hoped people would think twice before starting "artificial affairs".

    Tuesday's confidence vote will be the first test of the three-party coalition led by Stanislav Gross, which - like the previous government - has a majority of just one seat in the Chamber of Deputies. Two Social Democrat MPs are seriously ill and may not make the vote.

    On Sunday, senior Civic Democrat Vlastimil Tlusty said the party would consider "pairing" with one of the ill deputies, Hana Orgonikova, thus cancelling out her lost vote. But he said his party would not pair with Miloslav Vlcek, who has been ill for a long time and had "plenty of time" to resign his seat.

    Author: Ian Willoughby
  • 08/22/2004

    The Czech Republic took two silver medals at the Olympic Games in Athens on Sunday. Lenka Smidova came second in the women's Europe sailing category, while a silver medal was also awarded to the Czech men's coxless quadruple sculls comprising Tomas Karas, Jakub Hanak, David Jirka and David Kopriva. This brings the Czech team's tally at Athens to five medals - two silvers and three bronzes.

    Author: Ian Willoughby
  • 08/21/2004

    A remembrance ceremony has been held in front of the Czech Radio building on Prague's Vinohradska St, the site of the bloodiest fighting on August 21, 1968, when Soviet-led troops invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the reform movement known as the Prague Spring. More than 90 people were killed and several hundred wounded in the first weeks of the invasion.

    Speaking at Saturday's ceremony - which was attended by around 100, mostly elderly people - the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, Lubomir Zaoralek said efforts to create a more free life in Czechoslovakia did not die under the invading armies' tanks, but a year later in August 1969, when Czechoslovak security forces suppressed protest demonstrations.

    The mayor of Prague, Pavel Bem, warned of the dangers of forgetting the past, pointing out that one in five Czechs now vote for the Communist Party. He thanked those who had shown opposition to the occupying troops in 1968, and those who survived the following two decades unbowed.

    Author: Ian Willoughby
  • 08/21/2004

    The prime minister, Stanislav Gross, has accepted the resignation of Pavel Pribyl, the man he recently chose to head the Office of the Government. Mr Pribyl stepped down on Friday after evidence emerged that members of a riot-police unit under his command attacked anti-Communist demonstrators in 1989.

    Opposition to Mr Pribyl's appointment had been mounting; hundreds of people gathered outside the Office of the Government on Tuesday to call for his sacking, and another demonstration had been planned for next week.

    Author: Ian Willoughby
  • 08/21/2004

    Tuesday's vote of confidence in the new government will go ahead as planned; Lower House chairman Lubomir Zaoralek had suggested on Friday the vote be suspended, after allegations the opposition Civic Democrats tried to bribe Freedom Union MP Zdenek Koristka not to support the government in the vote. The Civic Democrats strongly deny the claim, which is being investigated by the police. The coalition has a majority of just one.

    Author: Ian Willoughby
  • 08/21/2004

    The Czech Republic's rowers failed to reach the podium during Saturday's finals at the Olympic Games in Athens. Vaclav Chalupa, who took silver at the 1992 Games, came fifth, as did Ondrej Synek and Milan Dolecek in the two-man event. Miroslava Kapkova came fourth in the women's race.

    So far the Czech Republic has taken three medals in Athens: a silver and a bronze in women's shooting, and a bronze in the men's two-man kayak slalom.

    Author: Ian Willoughby
  • 08/20/2004

    Freedom Union deputy Zdenek Koristka has said he was offered a large bribe by the opposition Civic Democrats not to support the government in a vote of confidence next Tuesday. Mr Koristka told Friday's edition of the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes a person acting on behalf of the Civic Democrats had offered him 10 million crowns (over 300,000 euros), a claim which has been strenuously denied by the party. Chairman Mirek Topolanek said he was considering filing charges of slander against Mr Koristka, who said he rejected the alleged bribe but did not report the matter to the police at the time. He has since been questioned.

    Meanwhile, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, Lubomir Zaoralek said the affair cast doubt on the credibility of Parliament, and Tuesday's vote of confidence might have to be postponed. The government has a majority of just one in the 200-seat Lower House.

    Author: Ian Willoughby

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