News Ivo Rittig reported as key figure in Civic Democrat scandals

16-05-2014 11:29 | Chris Johnstone

Czech lobbyist and businessman Ivo Rittig has been identified as the main paymaster in the scandal surrounding former prime ministerial aide Jana Nagyová and attempts to sideline Civic Democrat (ODS) party rebels, the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported on Friday. The paper said the main players and events in the scandal which brought down the centre-right government of Petr Nečas in June 2013 have been outlined by the state prosecutor in the case. Rittig is described as being ready to pay millions of crowns to three ODS rebels ready to bring down the government in a rebellion over tax changes. Rittig was also paying Nagyová, according to the prosecution dossier. Nagyová’s alleged misuse of the state security system to spy on the prime minister’s wife sparked the government’s fall. She later married Nečas.

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Czech team for athletics worlds includes two defending champions

04-08-2015 17:49 | Ian Willoughby

A 24-member Czech team for the forthcoming World Athletics Championships in Beijing has been announced. Among the 15 men and nine women selected are two defending world champions, hurdler Zuzana Hejnová and javelin thrower Vítězslav Veselý. Barbora Špotáková, who also competes in the javelin, returns to the World Championships team after missing the last event in Moscow due to maternity leave. The Czech team’s coach, Tomáš Dvořák,said eight members were in their discipline’s top eight competitors this year, which was good news. The World Athletics Championships run from August 22 to 30. 

Around 50 injured after wagons derail and hit stationary train

04-08-2015 14:24 | Ian Willoughby

Around 50 people were injured, seven of them seriously, when two express trains collided in a station at Horažďovice in south-western Bohemia on Tuesday. A spokesperson for Czech Railways said the last two wagons on a train travelling from Plzeň to Ceske Budějovice were derailed, slamming into a stopped train going from Plzeň to Brno. The second train was also derailed in the incident, which may have been caused by a mistake in switching. Three of the most seriously injured were taken to hospital by helicopter. 

Second investigation into jailed ex-politician Rath ends

04-08-2015 14:13 | Ian Willoughby

A second investigation in the case of jailed ex-politician David Rath has come to an end, state attorney Jiří Pražák said on Tuesday. The police should hand the case file to the state attorney’s office in the coming days. The investigation concerns companies suspected of involvement in the manipulation of public tenders in the Central Bohemian Region, of which Mr. Rath was governor. The police have already charged 10 people, including Mr. Rath, in connection with the allegations, which relate to eight firms. The former Social Democrat minister of health recently received an eight and a half year jail term and was stripped of CZK 20 million after being found guilty in a linked case. 

NGOs working with migrants call for easing of asylum rules

04-08-2015 14:00 | Ian Willoughby

A group of Czech non-governmental organisations working with migrants say that rules governing asylum seekers should be changed to allow them to reach Europe safely and ask for protection, iDnes.cz reported. This would thwart human traffickers and help save lives, they say. In a statement, the consortium of 18 NGOs said that those whose lives were in danger should have easier access to humanitarian visas and an increased chance of reuniting with family members. Around 1,000 illegal migrants have been detained in the Czech Republic since checks were stepped up in mid-June and the issue of asylum has been attracting increased attention. 

Prague Pride promises 120 events culminating in city-centre parade

04-08-2015 13:45 | Ian Willoughby

This year’s Prague Pride LGBT festival is set to offer around 120 events, including concerts, discussions, film screenings and theatre performances, organisers said on Tuesday. The week-long event, now in its fourth year, will culminate in a traditional parade through the centre of the city on Saturday August 15. Festival director Kateřina Saparová told journalists that Prague Pride would make a bigger effort to also attract heterosexuals this year than in the past. 

Leaked IAAF data suggests 7 percent of Czech athletes had abnormal blood tests

04-08-2015 10:51 | Ian Willoughby

Leaked data from the International Association of Athletics Federations revealed at the weekend suggesting a high level of drug-taking in the sport also concerns Czech athletes, the website of the UK’s Daily Mail reported. Seven percent of Czechs tested between 2001 and 2012 had suspicious blood samples, it said. Responding to the claim, the head of the Czech Olympic Committee’s anti-doping section, Jan Chlumský, said it was not possible to say at the present time in what way the results had been abnormal. The chairman of the Czech Olympic Committee, Jiří Kejval, criticised the publication of the records; he said media reports on the subject had been sensationalist and that drawing conclusions on the basis of partial results was highly unsound. 

HN: Zeman making Czech Republic only EU state to ignore boycott of Chinese WWII celebrations

04-08-2015 10:35 | Ian Willoughby

The decision of the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, to attend events in China in September marking the end of World War II in the Pacific means the Czech Republic will be the only European Union state to ignore a proposal from Brussels for an EU-wide boycott of the celebrations, Hospodářské noviny reported on Tuesday. A Czech foreign ministry spokesperson told the newspaper that its officials had had to reject a coordinated EU position due to Mr. Zeman’s plan. It is not clear whether the Czech head of state will attend a military parade in Beijing. EU representatives are reportedly staying away from the anniversary events due to tensions between China and Japan and because Russia’s President Putin will be in attendance. 

State prepares list of excess properties for potential sale

04-08-2015 08:54 | Chris Johnstone

The Czech government is preparing the sell off of dozens of excess buildings held by various institutions and authorities. Around 20 state institutions have been told to submit their lists of non-required property by September. Around 600 properties are believed to fall into the category with earnings from their sale estimated at around 2 billion crowns. One of the first properties likely to be sold is a former seminary at Vidnava near the Polish border. It was initially earmarked for use by the prisons service but development plans were eventually shelved. 

Czechs lead in negative sentiment about immigration from outside EU

04-08-2015 08:53 | Chris Johnstone

Czechs stand out as the members of the European Union with the most negative view of immigration from outside the EU according to a survey carried out for the European Commission. Eighty one percent of Czechs perceived immigration from outside the EU negatively, the highest figure in the EU 28. Latvia and Greece followed with 78 percent each and Slovakia with 77 percent. Sweden stood out as the sole country where immigration from outside the EU was viewed positively with two-thirds of respondents saying they were in favour. Across the EU, 34 percent said they were positive about immigration of people from outside the EU and 56 percent were negative about it. The overall figures have changed little since the last survey in the autumn. Surveys were carried out in May and the results published at the end of July. 

Senate deputy chairwoman optimistic about Lety pig farm buyout

03-08-2015 18:05 | Chris Johnstone

Deputy chairwoman of the upper house of parliament, the Senate, Miluše Horská, has said she is optimistic that funds will be found to buy up and close a pig farm at the site of camp where Roma were interned and died from 1942. The comments came during an annual commemorative event near the site of the Lety camp where hundreds of Roma perished due to disease and ill treatment. The closure of the pig farm has been a subject of debate for years. Last year Minister of Culture Daniel Herman promised that the question would be resolved. The director of the Lidice memorial, who also has responsible for the Lety memorial, pointed out Monday that the issue is not just a question of money to buy out the farm, estimated at sever hundred million crowns, but also the demand of the owner for a new site and suitable for the farm to be found nearby. 

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