Doctors have launched a week of protest actions against the policy of health minister David Rath. They say that the planned events will be largely symbolic and will not restrict care or in any way damage patients. The week-long protests against the minister's reforms will involve demonstrations in the three largest cities Prague, Brno and Ostrava, the distribution of leaflets and debates with the public. The protesters say that the minister's reforms are harming both medical staff and patients and have worsened the quality of health care afforded in many areas.
The police have detained a man who is alleged to have sent anonymous letters to several Czech firms threatening to poison their food products. One of the letters was sent to the Opavia biscuit company warning that their products would be contaminated with a toxic substance that is extremely hard to detect. The suspect is a 28 year old from the town of Opocno and he appears to have been motivated by the desire for revenge. He has been charged with scaremongering and may be sentenced to three years in prison.
Strained relations between dentists and the health minister came to
head at the national conference of Czech dentists on Saturday. One of
the delegates to the conference Miroslav Macek - a member of the Civic
Democratic Party and advisor to President Klaus - started a fist fight
with the health minister who was present at the gathering. The two men
were separated by the minister's aide and Macek left saying he'd
started the fight over a private affair.
Jiri Pekarek, the Chairman of the Czech Dentists Association apologized to Mr. Rath on behalf of all present. Pekarek said dentists were offended that the minister had described them as puppets of the opposition Civic Democratic Party. Minister Rath has said on several occasions that the week of protests against him is orchestrated by the leading opposition party.
The attack was severely condemned by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek who said at an impromptu press conference that he viewed the attack as a political affair and called on President Klaus to reprimand his advisor. Mr. Paroubek said the Civic Democrats were creating an atmosphere conductive to violence against left wing parties. The President's Office has not commented on the affair. The Civic Democratic Party has distanced itself from Macek's action.
The Czech ice hockey team beat Finland 3:1in the semi-finals of the World Championships in Riga on Saturday. Finland's Riku Hahl opened the scoring eight minutes into the game but midway through the second period Tomas Pleskanec levelled the score with a short-handed marker. Jaroslav Hlinka then gave the Czech team an edge when he scored into an empty net with less than a minute on the clock. And in the third period, with less than four minutes to the end of the game, captain David Vyborny scored the winner, opening the way for the Czech national team to defend its 2005 title. The Czechs will play for the gold on Sunday evening.
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.