News Former high-ranking Communist official Miroslav Štěpán dies aged 68
Former high-ranking official of the totalitarian Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Miroslav Štěpán, died on Sunday at the age of 68, the news website novinky.cz reported. Mr Štěpán, who served as chair of the party’s Prague organization and member of its central committee in the late 1980s, rose to national notoriety as a vehement opponent of the Velvet Revolution of 1989. He was arrested shortly after the collapse of the regime, and served two and half years in prison for his role in suppressing anti-communist protests. Miroslav Štěpán was one of few Communist officials to have been sentenced after 1989; he never relinquished his ideology, and blamed Soviet leaders for abandoning their comrades in Prague.
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Czech political leaders have condemned the murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and urged the authorities to conduct an impartial and transparent investigation. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that in Nemtsov Russia had lost a leading authority and upstanding defender of democratic values and human rights. The perpetrators must be found and brought to justice, Mr. Sobotka said. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said news of the murder was terrifying and that words of condolence appeared insufficient in the face of this brutal killing.
Profit making Komerční banka, one of the largest Czech banks, will aid its French mother bank Societé Generale with seven billion crowns in 2015, Czech Television reported on Saturday. Two other profit making banks Česká Spořitelna and ČSOB are also expected to assist their mother companies. Together the three largest Czech banking institutions generated a profit of 41 billion crowns last year. This is seen as a sign of the stability of the Czech baking sector.
A public collection for the victims of the tragic shooting in the town of Uherský Brod is growing with individuals and towns offering financial and moral support. The local council has earmarked half a million for the immediate needs of the families of the victims and individuals have contributed 150,000 crowns to date. The town of Frenštát pod Radhoštem, which suffered a similar tragedy last year, has said it would send 100,000 crowns to the collection. The town’s inhabitants are still trying to come to terms with the tragedy, laying flowers and lighting candles outside the pub where a deranged man shot eight people dead before turning the gun on himself on Tuesday. President Miloš Zeman visited the site of the tragedy to pay his respects on Friday evening and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who has just returned from a working visit to South Korea, is expected to pay his respects on Monday.
The AN0 party of the ruling coalition is holding an election conference in
Prague. The party’s founder multi-millionaire entrepreneur and Finance
Minister Andrej Babiš is running for the top post unchallenged. Thirteen
candidates have been nominated by the regions for deputy posts, among them
the head of ANO’s deputies’ group in the lower house Jaroslav
Faltýnek, the head of the party’s Prague branch Radmila Kleslová,
deputy chair of the lower house Jaroslava Jermanová and Defense Minister
In an opening address to the conference Mr. Babiš spoke out in favour of a majority election system, and argued that the division of parties into right and left was outlived. He said the country primarily needed an action-capable administration which would tackle the problems at hand. Mr. Babiš likewise brought up divisions within the coalition, criticizing the Social Democrats for wanting to raise taxes and saying he expected growing friction over policy issues ahead of next year’s regional elections.
A Czech national who was wanted for abducting his two children following a lost battle for custody is reported to have been arrested in the west Bohemian city of Plzen. The two boys, aged nine and five, are back with their mother in Austria after 18 months. The Czech police have said they will release more information on the case on Monday.
Sending arms supplies to Ukraine at the present time would only destabilize the situation in the eastern part of the country, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said following a meeting with his British counterpart Philip Hammond in Prague on Friday. The Czech Foreign Minister said it would be illogical to demand that both sides respect the Minsk peace deal and at the same time to send weapons to the country. British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said the UK would not supply weapons “at the moment” but reserved the right to change its stance. The two officials also discussed the free movement of goods, capital and people within the European Union.
Police inspectors are investigating a case of alleged police brutality against a man who was involved in domestic violence. The officers were called to deal with a case of reported domestic violence in the town of Slaný and when the alleged assailant came out he was handcuffed and brutally beaten up in the street. The incident was recorded on a street camera. According to the internet news site Novinky.cz only five officers are being investigated although eight policemen were seen on tape. None of them have been suspended from duty. According to the regional police chief this is because not all the officers were directly involved in the incident and it is not possible to identify the assailants on tape.
Lukaš Kohout, a notorious fraudster, well-known for having passed himself off as a government official on numerous occasions, has been sentenced to six years in prison by the regional court in Usti nad Labem. Kohout was found guilty of fraud for passing himself off as the representative of a number of government agencies and enriching himself to the tune of 300,000 crowns. Kohout is already doing time in jail for pretending to be an assistant to the former foreign minister Jan Kavan and getting the state to cover the cost of his expensive trips to exotic destinations. The verdict of the Usti regional court is definitive.
In reaction to Tuesday’s tragedy in Uherský Brod, where a deranged man shot eight people dead before turning the gun on himself, the Zlín region is demanding its own rapid reaction force. At present there are only two rapid reaction forces in Moravia – one in the Moravia-Silesia region and one in the South Moravia region. Police President Tomáš Tuhý has said the demand will be considered. He has asked to recruit another 4,000 officers for the force in the next five years. The country presently has 40,000 officers.
The Czech Trade Inspection Authority says it uncovered 44 cases of discrimination of customers on the grounds of race, nationality and age during inspections conducted last year. Trade inspectors conducted over 1,200 inspections at restaurants, travel bureaus, spas and real estate agencies of which 16 institutions received a fine of over one million crowns. The number of overall transgressions (639) is reported to have doubled in comparison with the two preceding years. In several cases Romanies were denied admission to restaurants, were rebuffed when they wanted to join a package tour and were turned away when they asked to lease a flat. Inspectors also found discrimination against foreigners, particularly Russian nationals who were turned away from a restaurant or made to pay higher fees.