A Prague 5 court has heard more witnesses in the case of Public Affairs MP Vít Bárta who is being tried on charges of corruption. Among the witnesses who took the stand on the fourth day of the closely-watched trial was Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake who is in charge of the government’s anti-corruption portfolio. The case centres on the activities of Vít Bárta who is widely seen as the party’s de-facto leader and whom two former high-placed party members accuse of having tried to buy their loyalty with large sums of money. Bárta was forced to resign as transport minister after the scandal broke and the affair has badly tarnished the reputation of the junior coalition party which won seats in parliament on a strong anti- corruption agenda.
In reaction to the mudslinging accompanying the Bárta trial, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that a glimpse into the bowels of party politics was rarely pleasant and urged party members to weigh their words. Mr. Nečas stressed that his words should not be interpreted as an attempt to influence or meddle in the work of the court. Similarly as President Vaclav Klaus, the prime minister expressed concern that the closely watched trial would further tarnish people’s perception of politics in the Czech Republic. He said people should keep in mind that it was individuals who were being tried, not an entire political party.
Prague’s Bulovka hospital will start re-operating patients with PIP breast implants this Saturday. The hospital said that in order to meet demand from patients who wanted a change of implants as soon as possible it was scheduling re-op breast surgery for Saturdays throughout the months of March and April. The first five patients are scheduled for surgery this weekend. An estimated 2,000 Czech women received the risky PIP implants. While insurance companies have said they will cover the cost of surgery for women who underwent the operation for health reasons, those who did so for aesthetic reasons will have to pay for it themselves.
According to the results of an expert study published in Thursday’s edition of Lidové noviny Prague’s anti-flood barriers are not properly maintained. The paper cites experts as saying that along given stretches of the river the barriers are in such poor condition they would not be able to keep out the floodwater. The study contains dozens of pictures supporting these claims. Prague invested 3.7 billion crowns in a flood-barrier protection system after the 2002 devastating floods.
Police report a heightened interest in street security cameras among the inhabitants of Chomutov, north west Bohemia. The rise in petty theft and robberies led the police to install 28 security cameras around the town which has 50,000 inhabitants. Despite the loss of privacy many people have asked for a camera to be installed right outside their house and the police say they have had to make a waiting list for future security cameras. Two mobile cameras have been installed in high-risk areas. Police say that since the introduction of the security camera network crime and prostitution have significantly dropped.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Thursday awarded the newly-established Arnošt Lustig Prize to its first winner, Prague Bishop Václav Malý, a dissident priest and one of the leading figures of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. The prize was established by the Czech-Israeli Chamber of Commerce on the first anniversary of death of writer Arnošt Lustig. It is awarded to individuals who uphold the values that the late Arnošt Lustig embodied and promoted: courage, humanity and justice.
Signatories of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto will mark its 35th anniversary next week with a series of cultural and commemorative events, including special performances of Vaclav Havel´s plays. Charter 77 Week, held from March 12-18, will offer the public exhibitions, seminars and debates with former dissidents. It is also intended to honour the memory of philosopher and Charter 77 spokesman Jan Patočka who became the first victim of the communist backlash against the manifesto. He was arrested and died of a stroke shortly after undergoing an 11-hour interrogation by the communist secret police.
A Swiss court has dismissed an appeal for the Czech Republic to be allowed to join the proceedings against former managers of the privatised Mostecká uhelná coal mining firm. The Czech state thus stands to lose billions of crowns that are now blocked in Switzerland. The Swiss started the investigation in June of 2005 on suspicion that large sums of money had been illegally siphoned from the company. Six Czechs and one Belgian citizen have been charged with money laundering and other financial crimes. The Czech Justice Ministry has said now seek to join the proceedings by filing a civil action.
The Czech Republic´s foreign trade ended in a record-high surplus of 29.6 billion crowns in January, 11.7 billion higher year on year and the highest figure since the establishment of the Czech Republic in 1993, the Czech Statistical Office announced on Thursday. According to preliminary data, exports increased by 11 percent and imports by 6.3 percent year on year. The surplus is fuelled by trade with EU member states which grew by 7.1 billion to 68.8 billion, while that with non-EU countries ended in a deficit of 39.2 billion, which is 4.6 billion crowns lower year on year.
Unemployment rose by 0.1% in February, according to new data released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. In February, 541,685 were looking for work in the Czech Republic at an overall unemployment rate of 9.2%. The highest rates of unemployment were in Jeseník, at 17.9%, while Prague-east was the lowest, at 3.5%. Weak consumer demand continues to blight the Czech economy, while analysts fear that government austerity measures could increase unemployment levels to 9.5% .