News Former Communist secret police officer says Andrej Babiš not recruited as agent
A former chief of the Communist era secret police, (StB) testified in court on Monday that minister of finance Andrej Babiš was not recruited as an agent in the 1980’s. Július Šuman was giving evidence in the minister’s attempts to disprove material released from Slovak archives suggesting he was recruited under the codename Bureš. The former police officer said that a reported meeting at a Bratislava restaurant where Bureš was said to have been recruited never took place. Babiš has taken out a libel action against the Slovak Nation’s Memory Institute, which stores the country’s secret police archives. A verdict in the case was not expected Monday.
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Czech police in December arrested members of an organised network, which has allegedly been importing counterfeit 500 euro banknotes in the Czech Republic. According to the police, the money was forged in Bulgaria and distributed in the Czech Republic and other EU states. Spokesman of the Czech Police's Organised Crime Unit Pavel Hanták said on Friday that the group produced 90 percent of all fake 500 euro banknotes seized in the Czech Republic last year. Nine members of the group, including one Czech national, were charged with counterfeiting so far. If found guilty, they are facing up to 12 years in prison.
A new poll released by the STEM agency suggests that the popularity of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has continued to go up. The survey found that 63 percent of respondents view the prime minister positively, which is the best result Mr Sobotka has registered so far. ANO party leader Andrej Babiš remains the most popular head of a parliamentary party with 72 percent. On the contrary, the popularity of Tomio Okamura, the leader of the controversial Dawn Party, has been gradually dropping, since reaching its peak after early elections in 2013.
Czech doctors last year registered 232 new cases of HIV infection, mostly among men. According to the figures released by the National Reference Laboratory for HIV/AIDS on Friday, 34 people developed full blown AIDS and 13 people died of the disease in 2014. So far the highest number of new HIV cases was registered in 2013, when it reached 235. Altogether 2,354 people have been diagnosed HIV-positive since 1985, when testing for HIV in the Czech Republic started. There has been a steady increase in cases since 2003.
Meteorologists have issued a snow warning for most parts of the Czech Republic. Weather experts have also warned against strong winds, especially in Moravia. Drivers should expect snowdrifts and the fact that less frequented roads may be impassable. Heavy snowfall could bring up to 30 centimetres of fresh snow to the Beskydy Mountains in northern Moravia. Temperatures in the next few days are expected to remain below the freezing point.
Barometric pressure in the Czech Republic has been rapidly falling over the past few years, attacking a record registered in 1989. The barometric pressure on Friday reached 974 hPa while the average pressure in January is around 1013 hPA. The lowest ever barometric pressure measured in the Czech Republic, 967hPa, was recorded in February 1989. Chronically ill people, particularly cardiac patients and people suffering from asthma, have been advised to refrain from strenuous physical activity outdoors.
Czech arms manufacturer Excalibur Group is set to provide tanks to the Nigerian Army fighting the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes writes. The first part of the arms delivery, which will also include fighting vehicles and missile launchers, should be shipped by Antonov airplane from the Ostrava airport during the next few days. The value of contract is estimated at almost 200 million crowns, the daily writes. Boko Haram extremists have taken control of part of Nigeria, allegedly killing some 13,000 people last year.
The chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces Petr Pavel has threatened to step down over a dispute with the Defence Minister Martin Stropnický. In a commentary for the daily Právo on Friday, Mr Pavel, who is to become the new head of NATO’s Military Committee in summer, said he was ready to resign if he was to be an obstacle to normal functioning of the government. The relationship between Mr Pavel and the Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has worsened in the past few weeks over the appointment of new head of the Czech military police.
Dozens of otters living in the Czech Republic are killed by poachers every year, according to a survey carried out by ALKA Wildlife organisation. The organisation has warned that if the negative trend continues, the otter population in the Czech Republic would be seriously threatened. A number of other protected species, such as birds of prey, also fall victim to poachers. Killing a protected animal is a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison. However, only a small percentage of the cases are successfully investigated.
Czech Minister of the Interior Milan Chovanec has said Prague will back the idea of a European system for exchanging data on air passengers. Chovanec was speaking at a two day conference on security and the fight against terrorism in Riga. Chovanec also said that supported EU moves aims bolstering arms regulation. EU plans focus on forcing airlines to pass on all details of passengers to a central data base which could then be accessd by national police and security agencies.
Czech tennis player Lucie Šafářová has won her first Grand Slam title. With US partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands, she beat Taiwan’s Yung-Jan Chan and China’s Jie Zheng in straight sets 6:4, 7:6 in the women’s doubles final at the Australian Open. It is the first time a Czech has won the title for 20 years. The Czech-US pair won the first set with ease but had to save two set points in the second before taking the tie break