The Prague City Court has ruled that businessmen Tomas Pitr and Miroslav Provod, who were sentenced to five years in prison for a tax fraud, do not have to start serving their sentence as yet. The court has postponed the prison sentences in both cases until it makes a decision on a proposed reopening of the trial. State attorneys can appeal Wednesday's verdict.
Interior Minister Ivan Langer has put forward a strategy for a stricter fight against corruption. Under his proposal, special anti-corruption courts would be established and special agents would help reveal corruption and gather evidence against corrupt officers. Stricter punishments would be also imposed on civil servants proved guilty of taking bribes. They would face up to 15 years in prison instead of current 8 years if found guilty. The Interior Ministry also wants to introduce a black list of people sentenced for corruption to prevent them from taking part in any further public tenders. Mr Langer says clear borders must be set to distinguish between lobbying and corruption. The Interior Minister worked out the anti-corruption strategy in cooperation with the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.
President Vaclav Klaus has said that finding an agreement between the Czech political parties on the formation of a new government will be tough. Speaking after a meeting with the leadership of the Social Democrats on Wednesday, President Klaus said he had learned the party's goals and priorities. He said that the different parties' views were like the pieces of a puzzle and he was trying to put the puzzle together. Previously, Mr Klaus received representatives of the Civic and Christian Democrats, and he will end the series of consultations with meetings with the Communists and the Greens.
The chairwoman of the Independent Candidates-European Democrats party
Jana Hybaskova has provided a state attorney's office with the names of
people who allegedly demanded a bribe from her party in exchange for
the payment of a state subsidy to which the party is entitled, Ms
Hybaskova said on Wednesday. However she did not disclose the names to
journalists, saying that it would frustrate the investigation. The
small party's representatives said previously that they were addressed
by certain persons who said that the subsidy would be immediately paid
if the party set aside 3 million crowns out of the 15 million for the
The SNK-ED demands a subsidy for its successful performance in the 2002 local elections in Prague. Previously, the Finance Ministry refused to pay the subsidy, saying that the SNK-ED had entered the elections as an alliance of a political party and independent candidates, while only parties and movements are eligible for the subsidy. The courts, however, have not supported the ministry's stand so far. The SNK-ED, claiming some 15 million crowns in compensation, has turned to the Constitutional Court. The party also filed a complaint against former Social Democrat finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka, but police shelved it.
The government has said it wants to see the number of abused children and children in institutional care reduced. On Wednesday, it approved a plan by the Social Affairs Ministry which proposes to boost cooperation between state bodies, NGOs and the public to fight child abuse. According to a report published by the ministry, some 7,500 new cases of child abuse were reported last year and the number has been increasing. Some 20,000 children are in institutional care in the Czech Republic, a fact regularly criticised by NGOs both in the country and abroad.
The Interior Ministry has decided to dissolve the Communist Youth Association. The reason given is that its programme statement says the movement strives to remove the private ownership of means of production and replace it with communal ownership, a ministry spokeswoman said. The ministry says the statement is in breach of the Czech Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The association plans to take the matter to court. The Czech counter-intelligence service BIS lists the organisation among left-wing extremist groups.
The outgoing Civic Democrat Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Petr
Necas, has accused the ministry of commissioning projects to selected
firms without a public tender. The projects were worth 3 billion crowns
(close to 133 million US dollars) and were commissioned in January 2005
at the latest, Mr Necas told reporters on Tuesday. Several ministry
officials are already being investigated on suspicion of corruption.
Minister Necas' predecessor Social Democrat Zdenek Skromach has denied the allegations and says they are an attempt to discredit his party just days before the local and senatorial elections.
The coalition of the Association of Independent Candidates and European Democrats (SNK-ED) said on Tuesday that a number of officials at the finance ministry were guilty of corruption. Earlier this year, a court ruled that the finance ministry was to pay the SNK-ED 15 million crowns (around 660,000 US dollars) in campaign contributions. The party says it was told by finance ministry officials that it would get the money if it agrees to give 3 of the 15 million crowns to a person who can ensure that the payment is made. Though Finance Minister Vlastimil Tlusty is not suspected of being involved, the SNK-ED says the officials it dealt with were people he closely works with.
The tight security measures that were put in place in Prague over three weeks ago are to be relaxed. Following a meeting with the Security Council on Tuesday, outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said there is no more reason to believe that the country still faces a terrorist threat. The authorities never revealed why Prague was put on high security alert. According to Mlada fronta Dnes newspaper, the secret police were informed about a plan to take Jewish visitors to a Prague synagogue hostage and then kill them.
The outgoing Civic Democrat cabinet of Mirek Topolanek proposes to sign pre contracts with pharmaceutical companies to guarantee the supply of 60 percent of the flu vaccines for next year. The proposal is part of the government's flu pandemic plan, which was approved by the Security Council on Tuesday. The aim is to have enough vaccines in supply by the end of the first quarter of 2007 to protect one fifth of the population against the threat of a flu pandemic.
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