News Press: Police tapped two journalists’ phones in army corruption case
The Czech police tapped the phones of two journalists as part of their investigation of the 2009 purchase of the Austrian-made Pandur armoured vehicles for the Czech military, the daily Právo reported on Saturday. The investigators tapped the phones of reporters for the newspapers Právo and Mladá fronta Dnes in 2011 in an effort to determine the origin of leaked documents in the case, the daily said. The police, which acted with the consent of the court, also tapped the phones of several top police officers and prosecutors, according to the report. The Czech army in 2009 bought 107 Pandur APCs for 14.4 billion crowns. Marek Dalík, a former aide to then prime minister Mirek Topolánek, faces criminal charges over allegedly demanding a bribe from the producer of the vehicles.
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Anti-smoking legislation broadened to include a number of MP proposals from last week has been approved by the government and will once again be presented for debate in the lower house. The move was confirmed by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday. According to the prime minister, the legislation, which bans smoking in restaurants and pubs and other areas, could go into effect in January 2017. The previous inception was shot down last week following the passing of a proposal by Civic Democrat Marek Benda for restaurants to be allowed to provide special rooms for smoking on the premises. The failure to pass the bill led to a rift in the ruling coalition. Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček has pushed for legislation regulating smoking to be passed in the Czech Republic to limit, for example, the dangers of secondhand smoke.
The city of Prague is preparing to ban the use of Segway vehicles in the Prague Heritage Reservation, the Czech News Agency reported on Monday – a day before the matter is to be debated by councillors at City Hall. ČTK cited the proposal to be discussed. The reservation covers Prague’s historic centre: the Old and New Towns, Malá strana and Hradčany (the site of Prague Castle and St. Vitus’ Cathedral). Within the zone Segways will not be allowed on sidewalks, cycling paths, pedestrian walkways and in residential areas. Streets well outside the heritage reservation area are also included, namely near Prague’s Naměstí Míru. Segway vehicles were recently reclassified under new traffic legislation; previously, Segway users had been defined as pedestrians. Under the proposal, only the police will be allowed to use the vehicles in the areas outlined.
President Miloš Zeman suggested in an interview for commercial broadcaster Frekvence 1 that he had never heard of well-known Czech lyricist and sometime TV personality Michal Horáček. Horáček, also a multimillionaire former co-owner of betting company Fortuna and onetime sports journalist, said in the media recently he was considering running in the next presidential election, although he had not taken a final decision yet. Horáček, while not a professional politician, was involved in Civic Forum during the Velvet Revolution and a few years ago co-founded an environmentalist party called LES with former environment minister Martin Bursík. It is not known whether President Zeman is intending to run for a second term: in his interview for Frekvence 1, he said that Horáček, like other potential rivals, “would have to wait until March 2017 to find out”.
An audit by the country’s Supreme Audit Office has found shortcomings in business rentals of commercial space by the Czech Foreign Ministry. The checks were conducted between the years 2012 and 2014, auditing property worth 752 million crowns and funds of 349 million crowns. The bureau charged that the renal of business space in Prague’s Rytířská Street was uneconomical, charging two clients between 6,000 and 7,000 crowns per square metre and a third only around 4,500 – a difference of a minimum of 2.2 million crowns lost annually over a four-year period. The Czech Audit Office also found that expenses for the children of employees at Czech missions around the world had grown significantly, despite the fact that under existing norms they should attend state schools. The Czech News Agency, which reported the story, has contacted the ministry for comment.
The 18th Khamoro World Roma Festival, showcasing Roma musicians from all over the world, opened with an open-air oncert at the embankment in Prague centre at the weekend. The event runs through June 4. Apart from concerts, the festival programme offers a number of accompanying events, including expert seminars on current topics. Sunday's opening concert started with Le Chavendar Czech band from Rokycany, west Bohemia, whose music is based on Roma folklore enriched by jazz, Latin and flamenco motifs. It was followed by Slovak singer Maros Bango along with the dulcimer band of Ladislav Rigo and DJ Shantel mixing electronic music with Balkan rhythms. He is the first DJ to remix songs of Romanies, Serbian and Macedonian bands, organizers said. During its 18-year history, the festival has welcomed a total of 184 bands from 33 countries, the Czech News Agency reported.
The trial of two Czechs charged in New Zealand with smuggling some 20 kilos of the illegal drug pervetin (methamphetamine) is set to continue on Monday. The amount of drugs was the largest ever uncovered at the airport in Aukland, and has an estimated value of 320 million crowns. New Zealand has strict drug laws and the Czechs could face life sentences if found guilty. In a similar case recently, two gang members producing the drug locally were given sentences of 15 and 19 years in jail.
Doubles partners Andrea Hlaváčková and Lucie Hradecká advanced on Sunday to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros by defeating Slovak duo Andreja Klepačová and Katarina Srebotniková. Hlaváčková and Hradecká, who won the women's doubles title at the French Open in 2011, will face compatriots Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková who stunned Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza to advance to the next round.
Czech mountaineer Pavel Michut died on the Messner Couloir on Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) in Alaska on Sunday, fellow climber Radek Jaroš confirmed on facebook. In his message, Jaroš wrote that the other members of the Czech group of climbers were safe. Jaroš set out to Denali with a group of ten after having completed the Crown of the Himalayas.
The newly-named governor of the Czech National Bank, Jiří Rusnok, has said that the central bank should be less euro skeptical while at the same time remaining critical regarding the eurozone. He made the comment on a popular Czech TV political debate programme on Sunday. He said that while he felt the Czech Republic belonged in the eurozone, the time was "not yet mentally or politically ripe". Mr Rusnok, who officially takes up the post of governor in July, said also that the Czech National Bank would announce in advance when the time came to lift measures in its low crown policy, keeping the Czech currency at 27 crowns to the euro. The measures have been in place for some two-and-a-half years.
Reworked anti-smoking legislation - taking into account a number of changes suggested by MPs in the lower house last week - is to be put forward at the cabinet meeting on Monday by Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček. The ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, similarly to last week's rejected bill, will apply to cigarettes and cigars but not, for example, electronic cigarettes or hookahs. The new legislation would also newly ban smoking at public bus and tram stops and at the zoo, with the exception of designated exterior areas. The reworked law does not include a proposal put forward last week by Civic Democrat MP Marek Benda for restaurants to have special rooms for smokers, service-free, to protect restaurant personnel from second-hand smoke. That was a sticking point for eight MPs from the ruling coalition's ANO Party, and led to the bill's rejection. If approved by the government and passed by Parliament, the new legislation could come into effect in January 2017 - half a year later than originally intended.