The leader of the so-called Berdych Gang, David Berdych, has received a five-year prison term for counterfeiting banknotes. He already faced five years in jail for blackmail. Around three dozen other members of the alleged criminal gang have also been appearing in court on charges of kidnapping, robbery and murder. Several police officers have also been implicated in the case.
Train drivers went on a half hour token strike on Thursday in protest of proposed changes in the labour code. The association's chairman Petr Cechak said 90 percent of train drivers on duty at midday had joined the strike, but Czech Railways said there had been almost no disruption of rail transport as a result. Only five percent of the days train connections were allegedly affected by the strike, with a maximum 15 minute delay.
Senators have also approved a tougher conflict of interest bill which would tighten control over property belonging to politicians and other officials in the public sector such as the police force and the judiciary. Any income or gifts over the sum of 4,000 US dollars would have to be declared. Any violation of the law could result in a fine of up to 20,000 US dollars. The bill must be signed into law by the president.
There were 90 newly recorded cases of HIV infection in the Czech Republic in 2005, a new record. The total number who were HIV positive at the end of last year was 827, 650 men and 177 women. The head of a centre for victims of the disease, Miroslav Hlavaty, said on Thursday that figures for the first two months of this year indicate a further increase is possible in 2006. Almost 200 people in the Czech Republic have contracted AIDS, of whom 118 have died.
Czech tennis player Tomas Berdych has been knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Indian Wells Masters Series. The 20-year-old was beaten 6-4 6-1 by Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus. Last year Berdych caused an upset by winning the Paris Masters, the biggest Czech success in tennis in some years.
The Senate has approved a bill under which foreigners could be granted permanent residence in the Czech Republic after only five years, as opposed to the present ten. The bill concerns some 38,000 foreigners living in the Czech Republic and is seen as a fundamental breakthrough. It is yet to be signed by President Vaclav Klaus.
Around 50 people demonstrated outside the Cuban embassy in Prague on Thursday demanding the release of political prisoners on the island. The protest was held on the third anniversary of the 2003 brutal crack down on Cuban dissidents when 75 members of the opposition were thrown into jail. The protesters in Prague read an open letter asking the Cuban regime to release its political prisoners many of whom are in seriously bad health. The Cuban embassy's doors remained closed.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek says he would like to become president of the Czech Republic in the future. In an interview in Wednesday's Mlada fronta Dnes Mr Paroubek also said he was in favour of the public being allowed to vote directly for president, instead of the current system in which the post is decided by both houses of parliament.
The Czech Republic is to introduce registered partnerships for gay and lesbian couples, after the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday overturned a previous veto by President Vaclav Klaus. One hundred and one of 177 deputies present - the bare minimum - voted to overturn the president's veto. The Czech Republic becomes the first former Eastern Bloc state to fully legalise registered partnerships for homosexuals.