The government has asked the Health Ministry to halt the export of alcohol products from the Czech Republic due to the on-going outbreak of methanol poisonings. The move, which affects spirits produced and bottled in the Czech Republic, has come in response to threats from the EU on Wednesday to either prohibit exports or face a ban on alcohol imports from the union. Health Minister Leoš Heger and Finance Minister Miroslav Kaloušek said they understood the EU’s cause for concern, as the poisonings could not be seen as a local affair on a collective market. Methanol poisoning has so far claimed the lives of 23 people in various parts of the Czech Republic. Another three people were hospitalised with signs of poisoning in recent days.
Meanwhile, the Czech government intends to lift the temporary ban on hard alcohol on September 26. A special meeting of the ministries of health, agriculture, trade and finance on Wednesday night approved new measures to allow the distribution of newly produced spirits and release of the bottles that were seized last Friday. The primary solution is the printing of new, more modern duty stamps on bottles of alcohol and safety certification for the products. The ministries have been ordered to submit an analysis of the activities of state authorities, inspections and the police in fighting black market alcohol sales in the Czech Republic.
The European Spirits Organisation has complained about the order to re-issue duty stamps and called on the government to end the prohibition. The current system of duty stamps, they say, does not impede counterfeiting or the black market, as the stamps are easy to falsify, are often reused and their absence on bottles overlooked. The government imposed the ban on beverages with an alcohol content of more than 20% on September 14. The prohibition is reportedly costing the government 25 million crowns a day in lost tax revenues.
The European Parliament will open a discussion on the so-called “Beneš decrees”, which resulted in the expulsion of the Czechoslovak German and Hungarian populations and the seizure of their property after WWII. The discussion will be based on a Hungarian petition against the 2007 decision of the Slovak National Council declaring that the decrees are immutable. The parliament has asked Bratislava to send delegates to explain the circumstances around the declaration, which some Hungarian and other MEPs have called discriminatory. The Czech parliament issued a similar declaration in 2002.
The first ever trial of terrorist suspects in the Czech Republic has begun in Prague. Four Dagestanis, two Bulgarians and one citizen of Moldova are accused of counterfeiting documents with the intent of aiding terrorist activities from 2008 to 2010. According to the State Attorney Petr Boš, the defendants falsified dozens of documents for Dagestani terrorists who were staying in Germany. Four of the seven allegedly knew that the documents would end up in the hands of terrorists. Most of the defendants refused to testify on Wednesday. One man admitted his involvement, but denied that he was part of an organized group, stating that he was simply a middleman. All the defendants denied links to terrorists in the Russian Republic of Dagestan. The hearings will continue on Thursday and Friday.
An Olomouc bus driver who was controversially imprisoned for drawing on political posters will have to serve the rest of his sentence, having been denied a presidential pardon. President Klaus said via a spokesman that he did not see a reason for a pardon not based on humanitarian grounds. Roman Smetana became a symbol for various opposition groups in 2011, when he refused to serve 100 hours of community service for ridiculing political figures by defacing their campaign posters. His sentence was thus changed to 100 days in prison of which he served one month, before the Justice Minister filed a compliant in his favour. The Supreme Court rejected that complaint, and Mr Smetana will thus have to complete the remaining 67 days of his sentence.
The computer gaming community is petitioning online for the release of two programmers who are currently in prison in Greece on suspicion of espionage. The men were apparently arrested for filming a military installation on the island of Limnos, where they say they were gathering research for a game while on holiday. The situation has been complicated by the fact that Greek judicial workers are currently on strike and may remain so for another month, so the programmers’ case has been postponed indefinitely.
A new poll by the CVVM agency suggests a strong lead for the left-wing Social Democratic and Communist parties. According to the survey, the Social Democrats would win parliamentary elections handily with 31.5% of the vote. The Communist Party took second place in the poll with 21, followed by the senior governing party, the Civic Democrats, with 20.5%. The governing TOP 09 party and the Christian DEmcorats would also win seats in the lower house, with 8.5 and 6%, respectively. Fifty-seven percent of legal voters said they would participate in elections.
The Czech Police have caught the last of five men suspected of a machete attack on a bar in North Bohemia last year. The suspect was arrested in England and transferred to the Czech Republic. The prosecution says that two of the Roma men were thrown out of a pub in Nový Bor for being insulting. They later returned with three more men and attacked the patrons with machetes. Three people were injured. If convicted on charges of attempted murder and disorderly conduct they face between 12 and 20 years’ imprisonment..
Hockey legend Jaromír Jágr has played his first game in eight years in the Czech domestic league. Jágr – who is newly signed with the Dallas Stars – received the go-ahead only at the ‘last minute’ from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, news website idnes reported. He and other players sought permission to play elsewhere in light of the current NHL lockout. Jágr is playing for his home town club of Kladno; on Tuesday the team lost 3-2 against Slavia at a game held at Prague’s O2 Arena. Jágr admitted exhaustion after the match but made clear he was glad to be playing for the Czech club.