News Members of Czech kidnapping and murder gang given life sentences
The two ringleaders of a gang whose kidnapping of wealthy Czechs sometimes ended up with murder have been given life sentences by a Prague court on Friday. Michael Šváb and Libor Skopalík were given life sentences for their roles in the five-man gang. The court heard how they picked their targets from rich Czech businessmen when they were abroad. One of the targets though was said to have been killed in the Dubai desert after being suffocated and hit on the head with a stone. Another businessman was shot in Italy after being first abducted in Nice. Members of the gang were said to have met in prison where they planned their future actions after they were released.
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Police are searching for convicted criminal Jan Novak who escaped from a hospital in Krč in Prague on Tuesday. The 44-year-old convict, who was due for release in 2017, was serving a sentence for a robbery. He is considered highly aggressive; although he was unarmed at the time of his escape, the police warn he is likely to obtain a weapon easily. Members of the public should under no circumstances try and apprehend the suspect themselves. Police conducting a search at the site of the hospital employed the use of sniffer dogs for tracking purposes.
Czech President Miloš Zeman has met with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon, discussing trade opportunities, according to the Avesta news agency, as well as international issues including Islamic terrorism. Trade between the Czech Republic and Tajikistan is negligible; the presidents are launching a business seminar with the representation of 70 Czech firms. Cooperation in industry, energy, agriculture and other sectors are on the agenda, say sources.
According to The Independent, star football goalkeeper Petr Čech, who lost top spot with Chelsea this season to Belgian phenom Thibault Courtois, was better last season than the new No.1 has been so far. Analysing numbers compiled, the daily found that Čech edged Courtois in almost every category, including goals conceded per game. Courtois, 22, however, is ten years younger and is considered well part of the club’s future. In recent days there has been speculation that Čech could move to another Premier League team, possibly Arsenal or Liverpool. AC Milan, from Serie A, has also been mentioned. Other sources say that the keeper will stay until the summer, not opting to try for the earliest trade window in January. The player has less than 18 months left on his contract with Chelsea. He did not play in the Champions League on Tuesday – a 5-0 drubbing of Schalke.
A former close associate of President Miloš Zeman has launched an attack on the head of state in a new book. Miroslav Šlouf worked with Mr. Zeman while he was leader of the Social Democrats and is regarded as having masterminded his presidential campaign. In Jak se dobývá Hrad (How to Conquer the Castle), he says that Mr. Zeman’s behaviour is increasingly determined by three negative traits: unpredictable mood swings, dogged obstinacy and practically non-existent social intelligence. The president broke off contact with Mr. Šlouf after his election in January least year.
The popular Czech composer and singer Petr Hapka has died at the age of 70. Hapka co-wrote a series of hits with lyricist Michal Horáček and other collaborators for artists such as Hana Hegerová, Karel Gott, Lucie Bilá, Michal Kocáb and Jana Kirschner. His own distinctive voice appeared on solo recordings and duets, while he also composed music for a great number of films, TV series and theatre productions.
The Czech Republic should not tell Ukraine what kind of future to choose, the former’s minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, said on Tuesday, hours after Czech President Milos Zeman said Ukraine should remain neutral and not join NATO. Speaking after a meeting in Prague with his Lithuanian counterpart, Linas Linkevičius, Mr. Zaorálek said Ukraine should itself decide in a sovereign manner on its future direction.
The Czech Republic failed to use some CZK 12 billion in available European Union subsidies in 2013, the minister of regional development, Karla Šlechtová, said on Tuesday. The figure is higher than an estimate made in the summer. Minister Šlechtová said her ministry expected the volume of EU funds not accessed this year to be up to CZK 30 billion, adding that a more accurate estimate would not be available until January.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is planning to ask the state attorney’s office to look into alleged defamation against the Czech Embassy in Ukraine’s Kiev. An internal ministry investigation found there was no truth in letters sent to the director of the Foreign Department of the Office of the President stating that employees at the embassy had pressured ethnic Czechs in Ukraine not to speak about their wish to move to the Czech Republic. Věra Doušová, who organised the repatriation of a wave of Volhynia Czechs in the early 1990s, said publicly that a number of ethnic Czechs in Ukraine had made such an accusation and handed a list of their names to President Miloš Zeman; he has expressed support for their wish to move to the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic supports a solution to the Middle East peace process under which the Israelis and the Palestinians would each have an independent state, the country’s prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said in Jerusalem on Tuesday. His Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he appreciated the fact that the Czech Republic, which he called a traditional ally of his country, did not support a unilateral solution. The Czech leader and several cabinet members held a joint session with Israeli ministers, at which they signed treaties on cooperation in fields such as research, defence, healthcare and culture.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, says he is opposed to the idea of Ukraine joining the NATO military alliance. Speaking on Tuesday on a visit to Kazakhstan, he said Ukraine should be neutral and ought to undergo “Finlandisation”, meaning it should have a position analogous to Finland during the Soviet era, when it retained its sovereignty but subordinated its policies to those of its powerful neighbour. Mr. Zeman said he agreed with Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said at the weekend that he could accept NATO cooperation with Ukraine, but not membership.