Press Review

Tikrit, photo: CTK

"War at an end" that's how most of the Czech papers today size up the fall of Saddam Hussein's last bastion in Tikrit, showing photos of US soldiers celebrating as they wave both US and Iraqi flags, while LIDOVE NOVINY shows the cover of this week's Time magazine: a portrait of Saddam Hussein, crossed out with a bleeding "X". Meanwhile, on the home front, stories making the headlines concern several growing legal scandals in the Czech Republic...

Tikrit, photo: CTK
"War at an end" that's how most of the Czech papers today size up the fall of Saddam Hussein's last bastion in Tikrit, showing photos of US soldiers celebrating as they wave both US and Iraqi flags, while LIDOVE NOVINY shows the cover of this week's Time magazine: a portrait of Saddam Hussein, crossed out with a bleeding "X". Meanwhile, on the home front, stories making the headlines concern several growing legal scandals in the Czech Republic...

One of those is the case of the collapsed bank Union banka writes MLADA FRONTA DNES. Monday saw several individuals charged in relation to the bank: two men, who allegedly kidnapped one of the main owners last week, threatening him with blackmail before releasing him unharmed. Charges have also been levelled at a district judge, under suspicion for using fraudulent documents to send the troubled bank into forced administration.

Another scandal just breaking, reported by MLADA FRONTA DNES, concerns 327 million crowns in damages quietly paid out to a company known as Diag Human over the last few days. Years ago the firm, specialising in blood plasma, was labelled "suspicious" by then health minister Martin Bojar, and scratched from doing business in the Czech Republic.

The company then sued for damages and the millions that were now paid out are part of an out-of-court settlement. But, the daily writes, that may not close the lid on the case. The Diag Human company is also asking to be awarded accumulated interest, a far higher amount in damages, reaching into the billions.

LIDOVE NOVINY, meanwhile, writes of corruption on another scale, the trial of Prague police officer Jindrich Mladek, sentenced on Monday for trying to bribe other officers to follow his lead in a number of cases. He received a suspended sentence of two-and-a-half years in prison, and a five year ban from working on the force. The paradox: Mladek was himself a specialist in financial crime.

At a time when the latest TNS Factum poll shows that the number of Czechs who support accession to the European Union is at around 78 percent, LIDOVE NOVINY writes that the Communist Party is preparing to pepper citizens with around 300,000 anti-EU fliers, explaining in their view of why joining the union is a bad idea. The communists also want to use the 1st of May as an opportunity to put up some 150,000 anti-EU posters.

Turning from politics to medicine, PRAVO notes a medical first that took place in the Czech Republic on Monday: the country's first mechanical heart transplant. The operation was conducted by Jan Pirk, one of the most experienced transplant surgeons in Europe says the daily; the patient, a 57 year-old suffering from multiple-organ collapse, is still waiting for a suitable donor. Around 1,000 people in the Czech Republic are waiting for organ transplants; 30 of those are waiting for new hearts.

Finally, writes PRAVO, only "small fry" will be held responsible for procedural failings during last year's flooding of the Prague metro, which caused seven billion crowns in damages. The commission set-up to investigate procedures followed by transit authority employees found that some workers had indeed not acted appropriately.

Findings have been based in part on taped conversations between metro dispatchers and their superiors. Adds the daily: the Transit Authority's General Director Milan Houfek's position is secure.