News Health minister returns from Israel cannabis mission
Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček spent four days in Israel to learn about their system of medical marihuana cultivation and distribution, Czech TV reported on Saturday. After returning to Prague, Mr Němeček said the Israeli system was an inspiration for the Czech Republic which allows the use of cannabis in the treatment of some diseases. However, medical marihuana cannot be grown in the country, and so far only one Czech firm won a license to import it.
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A spokesman for Czech President Miloš Zeman has rejected allegations that Mr Zeman’s views on foreign policy contradicted the official policies of the Czech government. The president’s views are pro-European, and all his activities are in line with the government’s foreign policy, the spokesman said in a reaction to remark by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka who said that President Zeman should consult his foreign policy statements with the government before going public with them. President Zeman has come under fire at home and abroad for his controversial statements on the EU sanctions against Russia, the crisis in Ukraine, and the group Pussy Riot, among others.
A 57-year-old man shot himself dead with a pen gun at a police station in Úpice, in north Bohemia, on Thursday night, a police spokeswoman said. The man, who was detained during an attempted robbery, was inebriated at the time of the arrest. He asked to use the toilet at the police station where he shot himself in the chest with a concealed pen gun, instantly killing himself, the spokeswoman said. The case is being investigated by the Czech police’ internal affairs department.
A memorial entitled the Gate to Freedom dedicated to the victims of the Iron Curtain was unveiled near the south Moravian border town of Mikulov on Thursday. The monument has the form of 53 vertical iron bars, each bearing the name of a person who died on the Czech-Austrian border during communism. Besides Czechs, some of the victims were from East Germany, Poland and Austria; they were shot dead by Czechoslovakia’s border guards or killed by electricity in the border fence or land mines. The monument was erected by a Czech NGO in cooperation with two Austrian towns, and was partly paid for by the EU.
The police in the north Bohemian town of Litvínov have charged a 24-year-old man with interfering with the election process. The man allegedly offered money and free food and entertainment to dozens of people in the town in exchange for their voting for an unspecified political party during the local elections held last month. However, the town’s elected representation is unaffected by the case as the results of the vote have not been contested.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the Czech Ambassador to Kiev Ivan Počuch to protest against some of President Zeman’s recent statements relating to Ukraine. The ministry did not specify which statements it found offensive, but said the Czech president’s evaluation of the crisis in Ukraine was “unacceptable” and undermined the two countries’ traditionally good relations. According to the Ukrainian news agency Unian the ministry was referring to statements that Mr. Zeman made in a recent interview for Russian television in which he described the situation in Ukraine as a civil war and criticized the EU sanctions against Russia.
Czech eighth-graders have come out top in the ICILS international test in computer literacy, the Education Minister Marcel Chládek said at a press briefing in Prague on Thursday. Students from Ontario province came second and Australian students third. 3,200 students from 170 Czech schools took part in the test.
The Czech police have detained five Vietnamese nationals suspected of smuggling their compatriots to European countries within an international raid against people smugglers, Pavel Hanták, spokesman for the Czech police unit fighting organised crime, said on Thursday. Across Europe 26 people smugglers were arrested and 15 illegal migrants detained. All the five foreigners arrested in the Czech Republic were accused of organising illegal border crossings for which they may face up to eight years in prison each. According to Europol the gang smuggled Vietnamese citizens mainly to Britain, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany and Poland and it received 10,000 to 15,000 euros from each illegal migrant. The gang started smuggling people in 2013 or even earlier and it used forged passports and other false documents.
The Finance Ministry has filed a criminal complaint against the Teaching Hospital in Ostrava over what is describes as the overpriced purchase of a cyber-knife. The Finance Ministry which has criticized an alleged lack of transparency in health spending, claims that at 200 million crowns the cyber knife was grossly overpriced and could have been acquired at half the price. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš said on Thursday that his past conflict with Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček, who managed the hospital at the time of the purchase, was unrelated to the ministry’s decision to file the complaint.
The health authorities warn that there has been a significant increase in the number of patients with whooping cough around the country. In the first ten months of this year doctors registered 2,188 cases which is threefold the number registered in the same period last year. They say the actual number of people who may have contracted the disease is likely to be much higher since people with lighter symptoms don’t seek treatment and spread the disease further. In the Czech Republic babies undergo compulsory vaccination against the disease, but the vaccine is only effective for up to 12 years at the most.
The police closed eleven secondary schools in the Zlín region on Thursday due to a bomb threat. The schools received e-mails warning of an explosion due to take place on Friday morning. The schools as well as nearby offices and flats have been evacuated and pyrotechnics experts are searching the premises. The police are taking the warning seriously and the schools in question will remain closed on Friday. If the author of the mails is detected they could face up to three years in jail for scaremongering.