News Conditional sentences delivered for wiretapping top state figures

23-07-2014 09:56 | Chris Johnstone

The Czech daily Mláda Fronta Dnes reported Wednesday how two men convicted of wiretapping top state figures received conditional sentences and the identity of those who ordered the spying was never revealed. Former policeman Marian Hudec received a conditional jail sentence of 26 months suspended for four years and Michal Kondla 20 months suspended for three years. The two were convicted tapping the phone calls of Constitutional Court chairman Pavel Rychetský and close aides to the then president Václav Klaus. The tapping took place ahead of parliamentary elections in 2010. The paper said it established links to the security firm ABL, owned by former Public Affairs party leader Vít Bárta. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

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New US ambassador calls on Prague to continue to increase defence spending

30-09-2014 19:23 | Ian Willoughby

The new US ambassador to Prague, Andrew Schapiro, says the Czech Republic should continue to increase its defence spending. After presenting his credentials to Czech President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle, Mr. Schapiro said the Czechs were increasing their military spending to 1.4 percent of GDP; however, the NATO target is 2 percent and the US would like to see more progress in this direction. The American envoy said he and Mr. Zeman had also discusses the economy and energy, adding that he regarded the latter area as one in which the US could provide help to the Czech Republic. 

Police raid 40 public offices in investigation linked to EU funds and IT contracts

30-09-2014 16:02 | Ian Willoughby

The police’s anti-corruption unit carried out around 40 raids on public offices around the Czech Republic on Tuesday. The searches were in connection with European subsidies and contracts for IT systems, the Czech News Agency reported. The town halls in Olomouc, Přerov and Zlín were raided, as were the regional government offices in Zlín and Olomouc. Police also intervened at the offices of a company in Olomouc owned by the brother of Social Democrat senator Martin Tesařík. 

Prague’s Blanka tunnel finally set to open in December

30-09-2014 15:54 | Ian Willoughby

A major new road tunnel in Prague is set to go into trial operation on December 2, a city official said on Tuesday. The Blanka tunnel was originally meant to open in 2011 but the date was repeatedly put back. The project to build the country’s longest tunnel has been surrounded by controversy and is set to cost the tax payer almost CZK 37 billion crowns, CZK 6 billion more than originally stated. 

Czech cyclist König signs for Team Sky after coming seventh in Tour de France

30-09-2014 14:01 | Ian Willoughby

The Czech cyclist Leopold König will be a member of Britain’s Team Sky from next season. König, who is 26, finished seventh in this year’s Tour de France – his first – with the second-division team NetApp-Endura. He has signed a two-year contract with Team Sky, which features among other riders Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins. 

EU should ease sanctions on Russia if truce holds and gas supplies resume, says Sobotka

30-09-2014 13:51 | Ian Willoughby

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, says the European Union should consider easing sanctions against Russia if a truce in Eastern Ukraine remains in place and if Russian gas supplies to Ukraine are resumed before the winter. Speaking on Tuesday, Mr. Sobotka said if the truce between Ukraine and Russia continued there would be no reason for the EU to tighten sanctions or to introduce new ones. The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, recently described sanctions against Russia as unnecessary and counterproductive. 

Fluxus exhibition to open at Veletržní Palace on Wednesday

30-09-2014 12:31 | Ian Willoughby

An exhibition on the Fluxus art movement is set to get underway at the Czech National Gallery’s Veletržní Palace modern art venue on Wednesday. Fluxus, which originated in New York, brought together artists, composers and designers. The network’s best-known member was John Cage while Czech artist Milan Knížák was also an exponent. The exhibition offers an interactive presentation of the movement’s history via materials related to Fluxus festivals held in Europe between 1962 and 1977. 

Press: Rittig and other detainees took CZK 20 million out of company

30-09-2014 12:23 | Ian Willoughby

Businessman Ivo Rittig and other persons charged with asset-stripping the firm Oleo Chemical took a total of CZK 20 million out of the company, two newspapers reported on Tuesday, quoting the formal indictment. Mr. Rittig and nine others arrested on Friday are also suspected of money laundering and tax evasion. Mr. Rittig was previously accused of creaming off a percentage of the cost of tickets for the Prague public transport system via another company that has been linked to the Oleo Chemical case. Based in Moncaco, Mr. Rittig is said to have influence over some politicians and was reported to have contact with Jana Nagyová, whose arrest while she was prime minister Petr Nečas’s chief of staff helped bring down his government in 2013. 

Events at German Embassy marking 25th anniversary of transit of East German refugees

30-09-2014 12:13 | Ian Willoughby

Events are being held at the German Embassy in Prague to mark the 25th anniversary of the transit of thousands of East German refugees through what was then the diplomatic mission of West Germany. Among those taking part is then West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who on September 30 1989 told thousands of refugees camped in the embassy’s grounds that they could travel to his country. The current German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is also taking part in the anniversary celebrations, as are around 150 of those who fled to the West at the time. 

European commissioner-designate Jourová to step down as minister Friday

30-09-2014 12:05 | Ian Willoughby

The Czech Republic’s candidate for European commissioner, Věra Jourová, is set to stand down from her current post as minister for regional development on Friday. A spokesperson for President Miloš Zeman said he had already accepted her resignation. Ms. Jourová, who represents the ANO party, is set to take the justice, consumers and gender equality portfolio on the European Commission and will face the traditional “grilling” by MEPs on Wednesday. ANO have not yet announced her replacement in cabinet. 

Doctor serving term for rape charged with planning murders from prison

30-09-2014 11:59 | Ian Willoughby

The state attorney’s office has filed charges of conspiracy to murder against a doctor serving a 12-year jail term for the rape and blackmail of his assistants. The state attorney says Dr. Jaroslav Barták, who is 56, planned three killings while he was in custody in Liberec towards the end of last year. If found guilty of the latest charges, he could face another 15 to 20 years behind bars. The newspaper Právo reported that Dr. Barták was planning to murder former military intelligence chief Andor Šándor, lawyer Oldřich Choděra and Orthodox priest Eugen Freimann. 

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