Czech detectives are looking into a second reprieve granted by President Václav Klaus under dubious circumstances, according to the news website Tyden.cz. Citing anonymous sources, the website writes that Mr Klaus suspended the five-year prison sentence of businessman Tomáš Malina, who was convicted of fraud worth hundreds of millions of crowns. The reprieve was reportedly based on Mr Malina’s medical condition, however the prison service says his health is good and that he should begin serving his sentence. The article goes on to say that two anonymous pieces of information provided to the state attorney´s office show that Mr Malina manipulated health reports and paid to arrange the reprieve via a friend of Mr Klaus, Václav Petr. Last week it emerged that a woman convicted of corruption and pardoned by the president had been in contact with his wife, Livia, on a regular basis.
Actor and senator for the Civic Democratic party Tomáš Topfer is to head Prague’s prestigious Vinohrady Theatre as of September 1st. He will be replacing 72-year-old Jindrich Gregorini who earlier announced his decision to retire. Topfer, a well known theatre actor who has headed another Prague theatre –Na Fidlovačce – since 1998, received unanimous support from Prague councilors. His senatorial mandate is due to expire in the autumn.
The extended weekend metro service in the Czech capital will soon be a thing of the past. Prague city councilors on Tuesday voted unanimously to scrap the extended service of Prague’s metro and bus lines one hour past midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. The decision was taken for financial reasons and other restrictions are expected to follow. It is not yet clear when the change to metro and bus schedules will be introduced.
President Václav Klaus has signed the new Civil Code into law, his spokesman Radim Ochvat said on Monday. The 3,000-paragraph bill will take effect in 2014 and will introduce three basic spheres of private law: family, ownership and contracts. The Justice Ministry has hailed the new codex as ensuring better protection for the rights of citizens and coming closer to modern European law, while shedding Communist-era legislation; some critics on the political Left have countered that it benefits owners and the wealthy. The approval of the new Civil Code was ten years in the making and was one of the current government’s top priorities. The civil code currently in effect was first implemented in 1964 and, despite being updated since, failed to take into account all areas of modern life.
Prague’s Municipal Court confirmed on Monday that the former head of the Prague police, Vladimír Kotrouš, facing trial for alleged corruption, could be released from custody. The former official was being held on the grounds he could try and influence witnesses. The court upheld a decision by the district court for Prague 9 and rejected an appeal by the state prosecutor. Mr Kotrouš left Prague’s Pankác prison shortly before 1 pm but refused to talk to reporters. The suspect is being investigated by the police for having accepted at least one bribe; detectives from the country’s anti-organised crime taskforce suspect he received several million crowns in return for awarding a multi-million-crown contract to a private firm. If found guilty in the case, he could face up to 12 years in prison.
The Czech daily Lidové noviny has reported that police wiretaps show that
former Metropolitan University Prague director Anna Benešová –
convicted in 2011 of embezzlement, bribery and the abuse of trust (but
pardoned last week by President Václav Klaus) - spoke with the
president’s wife Livia on a regular basis. The two reportedly
communicated over the phone so often that it raised suspicion among
investigators that a pardon would be granted, the daily said.
Last year Mrs Benešová received a two-year-suspended sentence and four years probation by Prague’s Municipal Court. The president’s spokesman said last week she had been granted a pardon over the need to care for her husband, who is seriously ill – although her sentence had no effect on her ability to provide assistance. President Klaus has said he was unaware of his wife’s relationship with the former university head and has since offered an additional explanation for having granted clemency, suggesting that the former university director had been "through enough".
Senator Jiří Dienstbier, a possible candidate for president backed by the opposition Social Democratic Party, has held a press conference in Prague in which he expressed the worry that positive changes in the country’s court and state attorney’s offices could be threatened by the return of Vlastimil Rampula as the head of Prague’s High State Attorney’s Office. Mr Dienstbier, a deputy chairman of his party as well as shadow justice minister, took the opportunity to react to a decision by Prague’s Municipal Court to scrap Mr Rampula’s dismissal last year by Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil. The Social Democrat charged that the situation threatened the Czech judiciary’s effectiveness and trustworthiness. According to Mr Dienstbier, the developments are connected to a plot for the post to by filled by someone close to Czech president Václav Klaus, and he referred also to increasing speculation that the Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil himself could be fired. Last year, the Czech branch of Transparency International called Mr Rampula’s dismissal a “necessary” step to restore public trust in the state attorney´s office.
ESPAD – the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs
– has revealed that the number of sixteen-year-olds in the Czech
who drink alcohol on a regular basis has gone up. Back in 1995, 14 percent
of the country’s 16-year-olds drank at least three times a month, but
last year the percentage moved up to 20. Twenty-five percent of the
underage drinkers drank beer six times a month or more and 15 percent
The study, released on Monday, also revealed that for the first time in several years marijuana use among students has decreased. But cigarette smoking has not changed: a quarter of sixteen-year-old students smoke on a daily basis. The European School Survey Project has been conducted since 1995, repeated every four years. In the Czech Republic 3,916 students (in either grade nine at elementary schools or in their first year at secondary school) took part, representing a total of 360 schools.
Student representatives have announced they will hold a week of demonstrations beginning on Monday of next week to protest the government’s planned reforms of the higher education system. Members of the student body of the Academic Senate made the announcement on Monday, saying that 18 schools from eight cities and towns would take part. Next Wednesday will see a planned march to the seat of the government from Prague’s Palach Square, as well as public discussions throughout the week. Demonstrators want to pressure the government not to approve two bills, one regulating tuitions and student loans, the other introducing a new leadership body – which critics fear will open the door for greater influence by the private sector, negatively impacting academic freedoms.
The regional court in Zlín on Monday sentenced 39-year-old Zdeněk Knapek to eight years in prison for the murder of a 58-year-old acquaintance. The men – both homeless – fought last September after drinking at an abandoned site in Kroměříž; the victim was struck in the head and died two days later in hospital, after suffering internal bleeding. In court Mr Knapek expressed regret for his deed; he had faced up to 16 years in jail.