Two new cases of bird flu have been discovered in the Czech Republic. Two dead swans were found near Breclav in south Moravia; at least one of them had the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, said a spokesperson for the state veterinary authority. Previously 12 cases of bird flu were detected in south Bohemia.
A pastoral letter aimed at helping Catholics decide who to vote for in the coming elections is to be read at Roman Catholic churches around the country this Sunday, newspapers reported. The letter does not mention any particular party by name but seems to favour the Christian Democrats. The head of the Roman Catholic church in the Czech Republic, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, denied the pastoral letter gave concrete instruction on who to vote for. But he said Catholics should not vote for the Communist Party, which persecuted the church when it was in power.
If the United States lifts visa requirements for Polish citizens, Prague will push for the US to do likewise for Czechs, the Czech prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, said on Friday. Under legislation passed by the US Senate this week, visa requirements will be discontinued for any country which is in the European Union, does not pose a threat to US security and has at least 300 soldiers in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The Czech Republic meets the first two conditions, but not the third: it currently has 200 troops in those countries. The law still has to go before the US House of Representatives.
A 39-year-old Czech man found on a raft off the coast of Sweden has been escorted back to the Czech Republic. Jiri Kvapil was discovered floating in the North Sea a month ago and subsequently betrayed almost nothing about what he was doing there to the Swedish authorities. A Swedish official said while Mr Kvapil had not requested political asylum or done anything illegal, he was being deported because he had no papers and refused to explain his case.
Around 9,000 civil cases have been in the Czech court system for a period of at least five years, according to new Justice Ministry figures quoted in Mlada fronta Dnes. In the last eight years the number of unresolved cases has risen by about 3,000. For their part judges complain they are too few in number, and say they get bogged down in paperwork. Most cases the Czech state loses at the European Court of Human Rights concern the excessively slow resolution of cases within the Czech court system.
According to a poll carried out by the SC&C agency, around fifty percent of Czechs would support a total ban on smoking in public areas, including restaurants, while 41 percent are against it. The poll suggests that supporters of the ban prevail among women, senior citizens and followers of the Christian Democrat Party, whose deputy Josef Janecek has repeatedly failed to push through the ban in the lower house of the Czech parliament.
The Supreme Court has taken the final step to fully rehabilitate late political prisoner Viktorin Heller as it annulled the last verdict imposed on him by the Communist judiciary in the 1950s, the Supreme Court informed on its website. The Supreme Court dealt with Mr Heller's case upon the proposal by the Justice Ministry. In 1955, Mr Heller was sentenced to 10 years in prison for high treason and theft of state property. As a high-ranking member of the Czechoslovak Sokol (Falcon) sport community, he was charged with subverting the communist regime and theft of state property. After the collapse of communism in 1989, the courts partially rehabilitated Mr Heller, but they did not annul the sentence for alleged property crime completely.
Around a hundred members of the Czech counter-terrorist unit have left for Afghanistan, Chief-of-Staff Pavel Stefka told reporters on Thursday. The soldiers will join the rest of the unit who had arrived in the country in April to take part in the US-led operation Enduring Freedom. The contingent is similar to one sent to Afghanistan two years ago; it had 120 members and was under United States command. Currently there are another two Czech contingents serving in Afghanistan, but they operate under NATO command.