District court in Prague will hear another request for release on Monday from the jailed former governor of Central Bohemia David Rath. The court will decide whether the defendant can be released from jail pending trial in exchange for bail payment and written affidavits, and will set the amount of bail. Mr. Rath’s girlfriend, father and mother of one of his children offered to pay half a million Czech crowns each for his release. Written guarantees were offered by 30 people, including Norbert Badal, personal secretary to cardinal Dominik Duka. Mr. Rath, who was arrested in May on corruption charges, spent three month under stricter regime confinement, to avoid possible influencing of witnesses. Currently, the former governor remains in jail with more lenient visitation and communication rules, because of fears of flight or continuation of illegal activities expressed by the prosecution.
The Czech National Bank (CNB) will possibly lower its outlook for economic development this year, said a member of the bank’s governing board Lubomír Lízal on a Czech Television talkshow on Sunday. CNB’s August forecast estimated a 0.9 % fall of GDP in 2012. But Mr. Lizal said economic performance this year is actually worse than the CNB expected, and the forecast may have to be revised to reflect that. At the same time the CNB expects an economic revitalisation to begin at the end of the year and is predicting 0.8% expansion of the Czech economy in 2013.
On Sunday, a ceremony commemorating the Romani victims of Nazi persecution during World War II took place in the town of Hodonín u Kunštátu in central Moravia. The ceremony was held on an anniversary of the largest transports of Roman to Auschwitz. Around 1400 Moravian Roma were interned at the so-called “Gypsy camp” in Hodonín in the years 1942-43. Three hundred of them died at the camp, while the others were sent to the death camps in Auschwitz. A memorial will be erected in Hodonín u Kunštátu most likely in August 1916 in commemoration of Romani victims. After the war, the Hodonín camp was used to intern Germans who could not be deported from Czechoslovakia, in accordance with the Beneš decrees, because of health problems or old age. And later briefly served as a Communist forced labour camp for political prisoners.
The first prize from the Waldviertel Academy in Austria was awarded to the Czech writer and former dissident Pavel Kohout for his long-time contributions to improving Austro-Czech relations. The 84-year-old novelist, playwright and poet was expelled from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in 1969 and became one of the main initiators and signatories of the dissident document Charter 77. In 1979 he was not allowed to return to Czechoslovakia after a visit to Austria, where he remains to this day.
This year saw a considerable rise in the sale of electronic books and e-book readers in the Czech Republic. According to the internet server Huereka.cz, the number of e-books sold in July 2012 saw a year-on-year increase of 43%. E-books now make up one percent of all books sold in the Czech Republic, compared to 0.03% last year. The most popular genres of books downloaded in electronic form in Czech are fantasy and detective fiction. The increasing popularity of e-book readers in the country is partly due to their quickly decreasing prices. The average price for an e-book reader fell by a third from last year, to 3,049 Czech crowns, while for an e-book it is 169 crowns, according to Huereka.cz.
Czech President Václav Klaus criticized Prime Minister Petr Nečas for his determination to push through a bill that would raise the Value Added Tax rates by one percentage point as well as income tax for top earners. President Klaus told Mladá Fronta Dnes daily on Friday that raising taxes at this time is a fatal mistake that is “bordering on political and economic suicide.” The Prime Minister pledged to override the Senate veto of the bill, which is an essential part of the government’s economic consolidation package. Without the package the government will not be able to fulfill its main goal to bring the public deficit below three percent of the GDP. In that case, Mr. Nečas warned, there will be no reason for this government to continue its existence. The coalition government will have to get 101 votes, or absolute majority, in the lower house to pass the tax hike, which some analysts say will not be as easy as the Prime Minister claimed on Friday.
The second gay Pride Parade took place in the Czech capital on Saturday, with thousands taking part. Organizers estimate that this year’s parade drew even more attendees and onlookers than last year, when the estimated participation was 8,000 people. Parade participants walked from Wenceslas square to Střelecký island accompanied by floats with music and dancers. Festival organizers said that their Facebook account was hacked on Friday night and false information about changes in the schedule was sent out to fans. But the event went ahead without any glitches. A few dozen supporters of the conservative group D.O.S.T. came to Wenceslas square to protest the event before the start of the parade. And some members of the Young Christians walked with the parade carrying signs and sometimes chanting slogans that were offensive to homosexuals, but no serious conflicts were reported. A number of political and public figures showed support for Prague Pride, including presidential candidate and vice-chairman of the Social Democratic party Jiří Dienstbier, members of the Green Party, Young Social Democrats and the U.S. Embassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen. The Prague Pride festival will finish on Sunday with an ecumenical service and a number of afternoon events.
The Czech Foreign Ministry expressed deep concern over the decision of the Moscow court on Friday to sentence three members of the punk group Pussy Riot to two years in prison. The ministry was surprised that an act that was not damaging to either health or property received such a strict punishment. In a statement, the ministry underscored not only the length of the sentence the defendants received, but also the fact that they were held in prison for over five months before sentencing.
Czech police arrested a 29-year-old man and found bombs, bullets and explosive substances at his apartment. In a press conference on Saturday, the police say the man, who was arrested on August 10, was most likely planning a sophisticated bombing attack. During the search of the man’s apartment, they found a police uniform and car siren, which the Ostrava resident was probably planning to use for the attack. The man’s internet communication led Ostrava police to suspect him of sympathizing with the Norwegian mass murdered Anders Breivik. The suspect had been arrested in the past for setting off a bomb explosion in an unpopulated area.