The Czech Republic has expressed strong disatisfaction with a Ukrainian court ruling sentencing a former interior minister – who served in former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s cabinet – to four years in prison (minus time already served). On Monday, the court sentenced Yuri Lutsenko for alleged embezzlement and abuse of office; his former boss, Mrs Tymoshenko, is serving a seven-year sentence for alleged abuse of office. The Czech Foreign Ministry on Tuesday expressed concern over the ruling, saying that Mr Lutsenko’s trial, like that of his former boss, was far-removed from European standards and principles regarding human rights. The European Union as well as the United States had already condemned Mr Lutsenko’s trial as well as the imprisonment of Mrs Tymoshenko, calling them politically motivated. Mrs Tymoshenko’s husband, Oleksandr, and her former economy minister, Bohdan Danylyshyn, have both been granted asylum in the Czech Republic.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said that his education minister’s concession on college tuition is only one of several alternatives. He added that it would not be possible to begin private funding of the higher education system in this electoral term. The introduction of college tuition has been one of the government’s policy priorities, but Education Minister Josef Dobeš backed down from it on Monday amid fierce criticism and protests, suggesting that fees be raised on secondary and extended college programmes instead. Under the new proposal, the standard length of study would be covered by the state. Fees for those who study multiple college programmes would increase by ten times, up to 26,000 crowns per year. The original plan called for tuition of up to 10,000 crowns per semester, with the option of student loans. Mr Nečas said that promoting that option without a complicated legislative process has long been discussed.
Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake of Public Affairs, the smallest party in government, has said her party is hoping for “constructive negotiations” with fellow partners TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats. She added that her party was putting forward no ultimatums. The party deputy leader outlined that Public Affairs is against the planned unification of the VAT rate at 20 percent as well as a complete freeze on pensions proposed by the finance minister in the aim of slashing the deficit. The party, she said, was also against the cutting of maternity benefits and against planned budget cuts at the Education Ministry (which is led by Public Affairs colleague Josef Dobeš). The deputy leader said members welcomed the possibility of a progressive tax rate being applied to high-income earners. The country’s centre-right government is looking for ways to slash debt in the face of meagre economic growth expected in the coming years.
The opposition Social Democrats want to initiate a vote of no-confidence
on the government in the Chamber of Deputies, over additional austerity
plans to slash the growing budget deficit, the party’s chairman Bohuslav
Sobotka said on Tuesday. Mr Sobotka charged that the current centre-right
coalition government (the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs) was
incapable of handling the task: economic ministers agreed on Monday to
state expenditures by increasing the VAT to a unified rate, and on a
levied towards the wealthy as well as limiting pension indexation.
The Social Democrat leadership has made clear it will try and call an extraordinary session for a vote of no-confidence in March; but, the leftist opposition does not command a sufficient majority in the Chamber of Deputies to topple the government. Mr Sobotka expressed the hope that the smallest government party Public Affairs, could present an opportunity by – in his view – standing by its election programme. The Social Democrats have initiated no-confidence votes on the current government twice before: in December 2010 and last April.
The Czech news website aktualne.cz reports that two men who accompanied former chief Prague prosecutor Stanislav Mečl into the office of a deputy attorney at the High State Prosecutor’s office on the night of February 17 were police officers allegedly tasked with removing a bugging device. A battle has raged between officials at the office since the former high state prosecutor for Prague Vlastimil Rampula – dismissed last year on the grounds he was holding up key corruption cases – was allowed to return to his post last week. This followed a recent ruling by the municipal court. On Friday, Mr Rampula filed a criminal complaint against Mr Mečl and the other two men for illegal intrusion. Division has reportedly only increased between Mr Rampula and Supreme State Prosecutor Karel Zeman and Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil; the latter has suggested he will leave the government unless the reinstated Mr Rampula is recalled for good.
A spokeswoman for the emergency services in the region of Central Bohemia has revealed that a home birth in Městec Králové in the Nymburk area ended in tragedy at the weekend. The birth had been planned in the non-clinical setting but the newborn stopped breathing shortly after delivery. According to the spokeswoman, a trained specialist provided telephone-assisted CPR before an ambulance crew arrived. Specialists then continued to try and revive the newborn but failed. Spokeswoman Tereza Janečková said that the emergency services had been called too late to save the little girl. Every year in the Czech Republic around 100 women opt for home births. Many obstetricians in the country continue to oppose births at home in favour of hospitals on the grounds that in the case of complications hospital staff can take action immediately.
Prague’s Municipal Court is considering an appeal by jailed businessman Bohumír Ďuričko’s legal defence asking for the re-opening of his trial on the basis of new expert assessments. Mr Ďuričko was found guilty in the murder of Václav Kočka, jr., who he shot in a bar in Prague on the night of October 9, 2008. As a result he was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison. The incident took place some time after a book signing at the location by then-Social Democrat leader Jiří Paroubek. Mr Ďuričko has put forward new expert assessments to try and prove that the act was not murder but manslaughter; the convict is reportedly trying secure a lighter jail sentence. After hearing from a number of judicial experts on Tuesday, the court postponed further deliberation until April 2.
On Tuesday the district court in Liberec sentenced 26-year-old Polish national Jakub Stefanik to three years in prison and expulsion from the Czech Republic for the sale of synthetic drugs banned under newer legislation. The Pole sold samples of the drugs under the pretence they were souvenirs; the drugs are said to be similar in effect to ecstasy or pervetin (the Czech methamphetamine). Mr Stefanik had been held in custody awaiting trial. Along with selling illegal synthetic drugs Mr Stefanik also sold marijuana to an undercover police officer. He has already appealed Tuesday’s decision, meaning the case will now go to the regional court.
A 62-year-old homeless man was killed in Ostrava in the east of the country on Monday night when he was accidentally struck by a motorist. According to reports, the man was likely at a pedestrian crossing. A doctor who arrived at the scene was able to help. Police are waiting to question the 30-year-old driver, who suffered a mental collapse following the incident. The 62-year-old man killed is the third pedestrian in the Ostrava area to have died in a traffic accident this year.
Overseas, in the National Hockey League Milan Hejduk earned an assist and
Jan Hejda earned two in Monday’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and
Anaheim. The Avs won the game 4:1.
In other action, Winnipeg Jet’s goalie Ondřej Pavelec had a night to forget, allowing five goals on 25 shots by the Edmonton Oilers. The final score was 5:3.