Police officers around the country are signing a petition in support of police president Petr Lessy, following his confrontation with Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek on Friday. The police president told members of the security and defense committee in Parliament he had been lobbied and even threatened by the finance minister over the investigation into the purchase of CASA planes for the Czech army. The finance minister has strongly rejected the allegations, insisting that the calls were related to the purchase of a new fleet of cars for the police, and has demanded that unless the police president can produce convincing evidence he should resign from office. Lessy says he’s ready to take a lie detector test to prove his case.
The head of the anti-corruption police Tomáš Martinec said the police would press ahead with the investigation of corruption in state administration despite the volley of criticism directed against them over the CASA planes investigation. In a debate on Czech Television, Mr. Martinec said the police had sufficient grounds for its request to prosecute former defense minister Vlasta Parkanova and that the request was not based solely on an assessment by the firm American Appraisal which concluded that the CASA planes had been severely overpriced. He pointed out that the police had worked on the case for two years under the supervision of the supreme state attorney. The former defense minister is to be charged within a matter of days.
The labour and social affairs ministry wants to train hundreds of care-givers. The ministry which needs to address the problem of an aging population and a lack of social workers, says it wants to train hundreds of people –mainly women between 45 and 55 years of age – who are already working as care givers for close family and elderly relatives. These people would receive special training and could join the ranks of professional care givers once they are ready to go back to work, a ministry spokeswoman told the ctk news agency.
The month-old baby girl who was kidnapped and abducted to Germany returned home safely at around midnight on Saturday. Several dozen family and friends turned out to greet her and over a dozen journalists and TV crews were in attendance. Baby Michaela was forcibly taken from her mother in the street when she was just 18 days old and the case evoked widespread public sympathy. The child was found by German police a week after her abduction thanks to cameras which registered the number of the kidnappers’ rented vehicle. Four people were detained in connection with the case, two remain in custody. The motive of the crime has not been revealed but the head of the local police force has moved to allay fears that the incident might be repeated.
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids reopened its doors to visitors on Saturday, four years and one month after the devastating floods of 2008. The expanded museum was showcased during a two-day celebration over the weekend that included a parade, a video-projection light show, performances by children’s song and dance ensembles and a marionette theatre performance. The museum’s biggest pride is a newly opened exhibition of 230 paintings, sculptures and other works by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha .The restoration of the museum and library was made possible through local, national and international assistance. More than 25 million dollars was raised during a capital campaign for flood recovery, to which the Czech Republic donated 10 million crowns.
A liquid manure leak has contaminated a stream and pond near Lišná, in the Rokycany region, presenting an imminent danger to fish and water species in the vicinity. Firemen have been pumping contaminated water from the stream for several hours in order to minimize the damage. It is not yet clear who is responsible for the damage.
The music festival Colours of Ostrava broke all previous attendance records on Saturday night getting 31.500 visitors. The highlight of the third of the festival was a concert by Canadian singer Alanis Morissette. Visitors also crowded to hear the French chanson singer ZAZ and Czech singer Lenka Dusilova. The festival winds up on Sunday with a concert by Janelle Monaes.
The lower house has approved a bill on the restitution of church property.
The bill was pushed through by coalition deputies in spite of heated
protests from the opposition parties who have repeatedly challenged the
volume of property being returned and the financial compensation to be
out for the rest arguing that the country’s public finances are in no
state to carry such a burden.
Under the draft legislation, the Czech state would return some 56 percent of the physical property worth around 75 billion crowns; for the rest, Czech churches and religious societies would receive some 60 billion crowns in compensation over a period of 30 years.
The bill will now go to the opposition-controlled Senate where it faces almost certain rejection before returning to the lower house for another vote in the autumn. The opposition claims that with the majority of Czechs opposing church restitutions it will be harder for the ruling parties to give it a final seal of approval ahead of the senate and regional elections in the fall. However Prime Minister Petr Nečas said on Friday night he was confident the coalition would have the 101 votes needed to overturn the Senate’s veto.
The head of TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg,has said the party would not remain in government without its founding father Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek. Mr. Schwarzenberg made the statement on Czech Television in response to calls for Mr. Kalousek’s dismissal from office on the grounds that he had allegedly tried to influence a police investigation into the purchase of military planes for the Czech army. Mr. Schwarzenberg, who pointed out that he has yet to see the evidence behind the accusations, said the finance minister was not only the founding father of TOP 09 but the “heart and brains” behind the government’s reform programme and he could not imagine carrying on without him.
The lower house is to take a vote of no-confidence in the centre-right government next Wednesday, July 18. The session was called by lower house speaker Miroslava Němcová at the initiative of the opposition Social Democrats. The house will also debate a proposal to set up a parliamentary committee to look into alleged political interventions into the police investigation of the dubious purchase of CASA military aircraft for the Czech army. The opposition, which has called for the dismissal of Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, over his alleged role in the affair, has tabled a vote of no-confidence despite the fact that to all accounts it does not have the 101 votes needed to bring down the government.
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