A group of students gathered in the Old Town at noon on Tuesday to protest against the sale of St. Michael's Church. The art history students and some of their professors marched from the cultural monument in the city's Old Town district to the ministry of culture and the government headquarters. St. Michael's Church came into private ownership last year but the sale has not been without controversy. Some experts in the cultural sector say the church should have been sold at a higher price; others say the sales contract is not binding and that the church is still the property of the state.
President Vaclav Klaus has ordered the release from custody of Jiri Fiala, a candidate for the Party of Common Sense in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Fiala has been charged with attacking a public figure and questioning the independence of the court over a case involving his paternity rights. Fiala has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that he has been denied access to his children. President Klaus said all candidates in the elections should have an equal chance to address voters and asked the authorities to conduct the investigation without keeping Fiala in custody.
President Vaclav Klaus has said he is seriously concerned about the information submitted by the head of the elite organized crime unit and expects an immediate and unbiased investigation. The President's spokesman said that Mr. Klaus did not want to interfere in such a sensitive case so close to the elections but that immediately after them he would ask to be informed about progress on the case.
The Education Ministry has refused to withdraw a textbook for eighth graders which has been severely criticized by the Church. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk called for its withdrawal earlier this week saying that excerpts from Francois Cavanna's work The Holy Scripture ridiculed the Bible. The ministry said that it saw no reason to withdraw the textbook and pointed out that the Czech Bishops Conference had seen and approved it before its publication. The publishing house Fraus which issued the book said the excerpts are used to illustrate travesty as a literary style.
Detectives from the national anti-drug squad have busted a gang that is suspected of organizing the sale of ecstasy at discos in the centre of Prague. Three Israeli nationals have been taken into custody and charged with illegal production and sale of drugs. The police confiscated thousands of ecstasy tables as well as cocaine, marihuana and LSD.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has rejected charges that top government officials have been hampering the work of the country's elite organized crime unit, saying that the accusations were part of an election smear campaign. Late on Monday Jan Kubice, head of the elite unit for fighting organized crime, told a parliamentary committee that Paroubek and other top officials had hindered his unit's work in order to shield Social Democrat colleagues and that criminals had infiltrated the civil service. Evidence supporting the charges was not made public. The PM called a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday to deny the allegations telling journalists that the opposition Civic Democrats had fabricated the charges to swing voters ahead of the poll.
Some 2,000 Czechs are believed to die every year from illnesses resulting from passive smoking, the director of the Czech Coalition against Tobacco Katerina Langrova said on Monday ahead of World No Tobacco Day, which is marked every year on March 31 by anti-tobacco lobbyists around the globe. In a campaign this week, Czech tobacco control advocates hope to help and persuade non-smokers to fight against passive smoking. Smoke is tolerated at concerts or in restaurants simply because many non-smokers are unaware that they have the right and means to fight for clean air, Mrs Langrova says.
A three-day annual literary marathon has begun in Prague, dedicated to
Czech writer Arnost Lustig who turns eighty this year. Until Wednesday,
students, artists, politicians, but also book lovers will read 15
minute excerpts from a work by Mr Lustig or any other Czech or Slovak
writer. Among the politicians expected to take part are former justice
minister Jaroslav Bures, former TV magnate Vladimir Zelezny, and former
Prague mayor Jan Kasl. The current Mayor of Prague, Pavel Bem, launched
the marathon, which takes place at Prague's Jazz Section.
The event will be accompanied by exhibitions of photographs depicting the life of Arnost Lustig and of publications by the Mlada Fronta publishing house. The literary marathon will continue in Czech Centres in Kiev, Kosice, Stockholm, the Hague, and Warsaw.
The Czech Republic will send neither rescue teams nor humanitarian aid to earthquake hit Indonesia. The government has released five million crowns (around 225,000 US dollars) in financial aid instead, the foreign ministry announced on Monday. Saturday's 7.6 magnitude earthquake on the island of Java has claimed more than 5,000 lives. An estimated 20,000 people are injured and hundreds of thousands are displaced.
The fourth annual Sustainable Development Week was launched in Prague on Monday. Until June 2, conferences, workshops, presentations and discussions will be held at various venues around Prague focusing on sustainable production and consumption. The project is organised by the Czech Environment Ministry in co-operation with the French, British, and the Swiss embassies.