Saturday's daily Pravo reports that there is a growing wave of a new type of crime in the Czech Republic: the theft of electricity. During the period of June 2005 to June 2006, the energy company CEZ registered over 3200 cases of illegal siphoning that equaled over 100 million crowns (over $4.4 million US) in loses. Despite the risks involved to human safety, a CEZ representative says that the number of cases of electricity theft is steadily increasing.
At its Saturday meeting in Pardubice, the Green party leadership recommended that its MPs vote to support the minority Civic Democratic cabinet of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek during the October 3 vote of confidence in the lower house. Green party leader Martin Bursik already indicated in recent days that his inclination is to support Mr. Topolanek—a position now confirmed after Mr. Topolanek's Friday evening meeting with Green Party MPs, during which he reassured them that the Civic Democrats will not seek a grand coalition arrangement with the Social Democrats later this autumn. Analysts are predicting that it will be extremely difficult for Mr. Topolanek's government to win the vote of confidence, given that support from Civic Democrat, Christian Democrat, and Green Party MPs still only makes for 100 votes in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies.
In top form after a successful Davis Cup run, 21-year old Czech tennis star Tomas Berdych continues his winning streak in Bombay, India. Berdych defeated his Austrian opponent, Stefan Koubek, in Saturday's semi-final match winning 7:6 (7:2), 6:2. Tomas Berdych will play in the final on Sunday, and if victorious in Bombay, the rising Czech player will make it into the top ten ranking for the first time in his career. Berdych is currently ranked thirteenth.
Coming on the heels of recent wiretapping accusations related to the Kubice case, and Friday's call for three government ministers to resign, statistics released by the police presidium on Friday reveal that 4130 telephone numbers were monitored regularly by the police during the first six months of 2006. However, police are careful to stress that the number of wiretappings does not equal the number of people whose conversations are being monitored by police during investigations; many suspects operate with several mobile and fixed-line phones. A judge must approve a police request to wiretap phone lines before such action can be taken. Some politicians and representatives of human rights organizations are criticizing what they see as the high number of wiretapping cases. Official statistics show that the number of wiretaps in 2000 was 5019, nearly 6000 in 2001, 9660 in 2004, and 7357 during 2005.
Approximately 50 anarchists have gathered near Caslav, central Bohemia, to protest against an American anti-missile defense base that could be established in the Czech Republic. The protest, organized by the CSAF group, has also attracted members of ultra-right groups who have a history of violent clashes with the anarchists. The protestors are against the base, saying it would risk the Czech Republic coming under a nuclear attack. The Czech Republic and Poland have both been slated as possible locations for a U.S. anti-missile defense base; an offer to house the base is expected to be made to one or both of these countries sometime this autumn.
Five people were killed when an automobile collided with a long-haul truck in Prostejov on Saturday afternoon. All five men inside the VW Passat died at the scene. The automobile had Polish license plates and was traveling from Brno to Olomouc when it ran into the stationary truck. The truck driver was not injured.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty dismissed his deputy, Eduard Janota, on Friday. Saturday's papers comment on the dismissal being closely connected to newspaper ads taken out recently by the Ministry of Finance, pointing to the state deficit; the ads have met with criticism because they were paid for using taxpayers money, and analysts say that Mr. Janota is taking the fall for the ministry's unpopular strategy. Mr. Janota (54), a non-partisan employee of the Ministry of Finance, has worked under nine different ministers in the post-1989 era. Since 1992 he has served as director of the division responsible for the state budget. In an interview for the daily Pravo, Mr. Janota said that he is not sure whether he will stay on at the ministry in another capacity; this will be a topic of discussion at a meeting with Mr. Tlusty on Monday.
One week after the government decided to implement extra security precautions following a possible terrorist threat, reports reveal that none of the cameras installed in Prague's metro system run continuously during operational hours. The metro system provides service to commuters between 5:00 a.m. and midnight, but the cameras are not designed to film footage to be archived and used to identify suspects—whether possible terrorists or petty criminals who excel at pick-pocketing in the metro. A spokesman for Prague's transit authority said that it is too costly to run continuous video surveillance, and that the transit authority can not afford such an upgrade. The situation concerns security experts, who say that the metro system is an obvious target for terrorists. Unlike the metro system's cameras, the over 300 street-level cameras in the Czech capital record 24 hours per day.
Interior Minister Ivan Langer said earlier on Friday more than 40 wiretappings of politicians, journalists and their family members were carried out in the investigation into the leaks from the so-called "Kubice report". He added after a closed session of the lower house that the wiretappings were legal but they included people who had no connection with the case. Information that leaked from the secret police report shortly before the June general elections pointed to ties between organised crime and the civil service. It also included unfavourable allegations concerning former Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. Mr Paroubek said the leaks harmed his Social Democratic Party in the elections, in which it ended second, trailing the right-of-centre Civic Democrats by three percent.
The President of Vietnam Nguyen Minh Triet has come out in favour of the completion of a readmission treaty between the Czech Republic and Vietnam under which Vietnamese citizens who breach Czech law could be returned back to their home country. Czech President Vaclav Klaus who is on an official visit to Vietnam told reporters after their meeting in Hanoi on Friday that his counterpart had not been informed about the issue at the start of their meeting but still expressed support for it. According to official data some 38,500 Vietnamese live in the Czech Republic, but the real figure is estimated to be twice as high. The two countries have been linked by traditional ties. A large number of Vietnamese studied in socialist Czechoslovakia and learnt Czech. The Czech Republic has in the long term provided development aid to Vietnam. This year it earmarked 21 million crowns for the purpose. Next year the figure will rise to 42 million and in 2008 to 47 million.
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