The Czech prime minister has strongly denounced the verdict of a Sudanese court to stone a pregnant woman to death for apostasy. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he considered the sentence unacceptable and had asked Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek to make the Czech stand clear to his Sudanese counterpart Ali Ahmad Karti during their meeting in Prague on Thursday. The Speaker of the lower house of Parliament Jan Hamáček has likewise said he will take a strong stand on the issue when he meets with the Sudanese official. A judge in Khartoum last week sentenced a pregnant 27-year-old woman to death by stoning for the crime of apostasy, and to 100 lashings for adultery. The woman was originally charged with adultery only, but the court added the apostasy charge after she told the judge she had been brought up as a Christian and was not guilty. The case has evoked widespread protests from foreign governments and humanitarian organizations.
The Finance Ministry has proposed introducing three VAT rates as of 2015, the ctk news agency reports citing ministry sources. This would include the current standard VAT at 21 percent, a reduced 15 percent VAT rate and a lower rate of 10 percent for selected products such as medicines, books and baby food. Contrary to expectations, the Finance Ministry has not included nappies in the lowest rate, on the argument that this is in violation of EU norms and Prague would be unlikely to get an exemption. The proposed draft bill also envisages a series of measures to fight tax evasion.
On a visit to Moldova, Czech President Miloš Zeman indirectly warned against former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko´s victory in Sunday´s presidential polls in Ukraine. Zeman said he would not like to interfere in Ukraine´s internal affairs or express his personal assessment of individual presidential candidates, but noted that "a little angel with fair plaits need not necessarily be an angel." The Czech president said he hoped to see the new Ukrainian head of state affect a reconciliation with the pro-Russian separatists, by which he would avoid the risk of both a civil war and an invasion from outside. Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti also expressed the hope that the crisis in Ukraine would be resolved peacefully.
The Czech National Heritage Institute has refused to hand over Bouzov Castle in Moravia to a religious order within the church restitution process as it believes that the restitution law does not apply to this particular property, the ctk news agency reported. A spokesperson for the institute said Bouzov Castle was confiscated under the post-war Benes Decrees, i.e. before the 1948-1989 communist period o which the church restitution law applies. He moreover argued that the claimant was not able to prove having used the property between February 1948 and January 1990 for spiritual or pastoral purposes, which is required under the law. The property was claimed by the Czech branch of the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, which is a German Catholic Order, the successor of Teutonic Knights.
The Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes gave details drawn from police documents Thursday of how the former head of prime minister Petr Nečas’ office was the real mover and shaker at the centre of the Civic Democrat (ODS) government. The paper said the police had mapped how Jana Nagyová was involved in seeking to fill top posts at the Supreme Audit Office, Administration for State Material Reserves, Czech Post, former Land Office, the ODS party, and the national police force. Nagyová, who later married Nečas, was a magnet for so- called ‘godfathers’ seeking to exert influence and place and even Cabinet minister often had to go through her to get to the prime minister, the paper reported. Nečas’ government was eventually brought down when it was revealed Nagyová had used the security service to keep tabs on Nečas’ wife.
Former trade and industry minister Vladimír Dlouhý has been elected president of the Czech Chamber of Commerce, the ctk news agency reports. He replaces Petr Kužel, who did not defend the post for family reasons. Dlouhý was industry and trade minister in the years between 1992 and 1997 under then prime minister Václav Klaus. After leaving high politics he served as advisor to Goldman Sachs in Central and Eastern Europe. In June of 2012 Dlouhý announced his candidacy for the 2013 presidential election but failed to collect enough signatures in support of his campaign.
The Czech Republic has moved up in the world competitiveness ratings published annually by the IMD World Competitiveness Center. After a four year slide the country is back in 33rd place on a list of 60 countries. The rankings measure how well countries manage their economic and human resources to increase their prosperity.
Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved close to 700 Czech Jewish children by getting them out of German-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War Two, will not be able to attend the ceremony of his decoration with the Order of White Lion at Prague Castle for health reasons, the daily Lidové noviny reports citing his daughter Barbara. President Miloš Zeman is to bestow the highest state distinction on Sir Nicholas on October 28, a national holiday marking the anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Sir Nicolas Winton turned 105 on Monday.
The Czech national hockey team beat the US 4:3 at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Minsk on Thursday, securing a place in the semi-finals. On Saturday they will take on the winner of Thursday’s face-off between Canada and Finland. The Czechs are back in the semifinals after two years when they won the bronze at the ice hockey championship in Helsinki.
In football, the Czech team came back twice from behind to end up with a 2:2 draw in a friendly against Finland on Wednesday night. All the goals came in the first half with Matěj Vydra and Josef Hušbauer hitting the back of the net for the Czechs. Czech manager Pavel Vrba summed up his second game in charge and his second draw positively saying that none of his selection had disappointed.
My Prague – Rob Cameron
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