News Tomáš Pitr has remainder of prison sentence suspended
One time fugitive businessman Tomáš Pitr has had the remainder of his four year jail sentence overturned by a Prague 6 district court on Thursday. The court ruled that Pitr’s outstanding two year prison sentence be suspended on condition that he does not break the law over the next four years. Pitr was sentenced to five years for tax evasion in June 2013 with the sentence cut later by one year following an appeal. He fled the Czech Republic following an earlier sentence but was eventually apprehended in Switzerland in 2010. Pitr was linked to a series of major share and tax evasion cases over the last decades after making his first money in the early 1990’s from the resale of Tuzex duty free rum.
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Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, criticised by the newly-elected head of TOP 09 Miroslav Kalousek, struck back in a statement for the Czech News Agency on Sunday that Mr Kalousek was a very able "political chameleon". He warned TOP 09 to be on its guard, suggesting that Mr Kalousek would be the first person to jump ship if the situation called for it. The comment is an apparent reference to TOP 09's founding by Messrs Kalousek and Karel Schwarzenberg in 2009, when the former was still a Christian Democrat. Mr Babiš also maintained that in the departure of Karel Schwarzenberg, the party had lost a "true leader".
The Czech Republic is in favour of greater cooperation between the EU and Turkey with regards the migrant crisis, and is ready to supply 25 million euros in support. The Czech Republic is seeking Turkey to regulate migrants, protect its borders and stop human traffickers or people smugglers from operating freely. The prime minister was given the mandate to purse the goals ahead of Sunday's EU summit with Turkey. EU states already agreed to provide three billion euros to Turkey over two years to help tackle the migrant crisis.
In a speech prior to his election as new chairman of TOP 09, Miroslav Kalousek outlined political priorities - foremost among them the need stand against what he described as an "unprecedented attack on free society". Mr Kalousek warned of growing oligarchization in the Czech Republic and against a government led by "one enlightened general", a clear barb at Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, the billionaire businessman with whom Mr Kalousek has routinely clashed in Parliament. In his speech, Mr Kalousek also warned of the growing influence of Moscow and suggested the Czech Republic needed to strengthen its position within the EU in response.
Former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek was voted in as the new chairman
of TOP 09 on Sunday, receiving a strong mandate from delegates. Of the 171
who voted, Mr Kalousek received votes from 148 (86.5 percent). No one else
at the party's congress ran for the top post. Likewise, Marek
Ženísek, endorsed by Mr Kalousek, ran unopposed for the post of first
deputy and received 71 percent.
A day earlier, Karel Schwarzenberg stepped down for age and health reasons but was elected honorary chairman and intends to still work closely with the party in the campaign in senate and communal elections. Mr Kalousek thanked him for his work as party leader and made clear Mr Schwarzenberg would continue to be a moral authority for TOP 09.
The Český slavík (Czech Nightingale) poll for musician of the year has been won for the 40th time by legendary pop star Karel Gott. The singer received the Absolute slavík award for 2015 as well as best male vocalist. Mr Gott was initially not expected to attend after recently being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and undergoing cancer treatment. His appearance was brief but was greeted with a standing ovation. The performer told the audience that support from his fans was the best infusion. On the night, best female singer was won by Lucie Bílá, who took the award for the 19th time and the best band were hard rock group Kabát, who clinched their 10th award. Some 140,000 members of the public voted this year.
The heads of the country's intelligence services met with members of the cabinet and the prime minister on Saturday, reviewing security and assessing that the country was not in danger of a terrorist attack. Tougher security measures were implemented following the recent attacks in Paris, and further developments in neighbouring Belgium, and are to stay in place until the new year. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that there was no need for hysteria or fear and no reason to cancel traditional events. He also said Czechs should make the most of the upcoming holidays.
The Czech Republic will not join a plan by neighboring Slovakia to challenge Brussels in court over EU mandatory migrant quotas, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said after a special cabinet meeting. Bratislava is planning on filing a case on the quotas at the European Court of Justice. On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the country should consider taking part in the complaint, charging that the plans on redistributing migrants across EU countries were "nonsensical" and "would not work in practice". The prime minister and Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek came out against; most of the cabinet on Saturday also opposed the idea, the prime minister said.
Lights at the Christmas tree on Prague's Old Town Square were turned on on Saturday but not in a traditional ceremony for security reasons, news website iDnes reports. The lights will also be turned off on the hour for a few minutes for an undetermined period of time before they stay on for the greater part of the Christmas period. Key sites in Prague saw security increased until the end of the year at the earliest, following the recent attacks in Paris.
TOP 09's Karel Schwarzenberg, due to step down as party leader, has said that in the migrant crisis the Czech Republic, the EU and even his party faced the challenge of a generation, the same way predecessors had to deal with the realities of Nazism or communist rule. At his speech at his party's congress in Prague on Saturday, the former foreign minister, who has long championed human rights, said it was important to be open and friendly to refugees, suggesting anyone could become a refugee under certain circumstances. He added that the 25 year period following the Velvet Revolution had been golden but that it had ended. After his speech, he told journalists that he was disgusted by President Miloš Zeman's position on migrants; Mr Schwarzenberg went head-to-head against the current head of state in the presidential election in 2013.
The leader of TOP 09 Karel Schwarzenberg, 77, is to step down as chairman and pass the baton to deputy chairman Miroslav Kalousek at the party's congress launched in Prague on Saturday. The former foreign minister and presidential candidate is stepping down after successfully leading TOP 09 to third place in elections in 2010, not long after the party was formed. TOP 09, now in the opposition, was in the former government of Petr Nečas with the Civic Democrats and Public Affairs. Giving up the post, Mr Schwarzenberg will be named honorary chairman. The new party leader, Miroslav Kalousek, 54, is a seasoned politician who twice served as finance minister.