Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has confirmed Czech support for former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker to become president of the European Commission. In a phone interview with Mr. Juncker on Thursday, the Czech prime minister said Prague would support his nomination if the issue comes to a vote at an EU summit later this week. Mr. Sobotka said he hoped the EU would avoid drawn-out disputes over posts and focus on a reform agenda that would deliver growth and jobs and increase the competitiveness of the EU. The Czech coalition government has so far failed to agree on a joint candidate for the next Czech EU commissioner.
The leader of the ANO coalition party and current Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has won a court case against the Slovak Nation’s Memory Institute which registered him as a former communist-era secret police agent. Babiš launched the court proceedings in an attempt to clear his name, maintaining that although as a former foreign trade worker he could not avoid coming into contact with the communist secret police he had never been recruited as an agent or harmed anyone by bringing information against them. A Bratislava court ruled on Thursday that there was no evidence which would justify putting Andrej Babiš’ name on the list of former communist-era secret police agents. The institute has appealed the verdict.The allegations regarding Mr. Babiš’ past have sparked controversy on the Czech political scene with critics questioning his presence in high office.
The police have charged a former head of the state agency CzechInvest with fraud, Hospodářské noviny reported on Thursday. Miroslav Křížek is accused of having paid CZK 2.2 million to acquaintance Zdeněk Hurský for an audit that was never carried out at the agency, which is tasked with attracting foreign direct investment and helping Czech firms do business abroad. Mr. Křížek, who is now a Civic Democrat local politician, headed CzechInvest from September 2010 to August 2012 when he was dismissed in connection with a different suspicious contract. He and Mr. Hurský could face up to eight years in jail if found guilty.
The Constitutional Court has ruled that the former justice minister Pavel Blažek made the wrong decision when he approved the extradition of Russian entrepreneur Alexej Torubarov to his homeland last year before the authorities had settled his asylum request. Torubarov was wanted in Russia on charges for fraud and blackmail, but he claimed that he was being persecuted by the Russian intelligence service. His extradition from the Czech Republic was dramatic after the then finance minister Miroslav Kalousek intervened and made a last minute attempt to prevent his plane taking off from Prague airport. Torubarov later escaped from Russia to Hungary. The court’s ruling means that he could now return to the Czech Republic and file a new request for asylum.
Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček has called emergency consultations with the heads of Prague hospitals in the wake of another incident when a patient in critical condition was refused admission to a number of institutions. The patient with heart problems was reportedly driven around Prague for two hours before paramedics found a hospital willing to take him in. According to the internet news site novinky.cz the minister is furious over the matter and has threatened that heads would roll once the incident was properly investigated.
Close to 20 percent of prisoners released under the amnesty declared by the former president Václav Klaus at the beginning of last year are back in jail, according to data released by the Czech Justice Ministry. Justice Minister Helena Válková on Thursday stressed the need to address the problem of overcrowded prisons, which was temporarily resolved by the amnesty. The problem stems from the fact that Czech courts rarely use alternative forms of punishment and the institution of house arrest, which was legalized some time ago, has not been introduced in practice due to the lack of electronic bracelets.
Several hundred people gathered at a memorial to the victims of communism in Prague on Thursday to pay homage to the memory of Milada Horáková, the only woman ever to be executed for political reasons in the former Czechoslovakia. In a 1950 show trial Horáková was found guilty of treason and espionage, charges which were later proven to be false. The Communist government annulled the verdict in 1968, but it wasn't until the fall of communism, more than 30 years later, that Milada Horáková was fully exonerated. Her execution took place 64 years ago today.
Police are investigating the death of a new-born in a home birth, the ctk news agency reports. The case occurred in Kašperské Hory, south Bohemia, where paramedics were called to help a twenty-year-old woman who was bleeding heavily. It is not clear if the mother had opted for a home birth or if the baby died in a premature birth before she could be taken to hospital. No midwife was present and the baby was dead when paramedics arrived at the scene.
A light sport aircraft crashed near the town of Kondrač in south Bohemia on Thursday killing two people. It is not yet clear what caused the accident. Eyewitnesses, who pulled the pilot and passenger out of the plane, said the aircraft was not on fire when it came down. Although paramedics were at the site of the accident within minutes both the pilot and passenger died shortly after, both having suffered multiple internal injuries.
Radek Štěpánek received a standing ovation from Centre Court spectators after a battling performance against Novak Djokovic in the third round at Wimbledon on Wednesday evening. The Czech, who is 35, was impressive in a match that he eventually lost 4-6 3-6 7-6 6-7 after over three hours of play. Meanwhile Štěpánek’s compatriot and former finalist Tomáš Berdych, seeded sixth in the Grand Slam tournament, had to come from a set down to beat Bernard Tomic of Australia 4-6 7-6 7-6 6-1.
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