The Czech Republic’s main international airport has been officially renamed after the late president Václav Havel. A special ceremony for the unveiling of Václav Havel Airport Prague (Letiště Václava Havla Praha in Czech) took place at noon on Friday - the 76th anniversary of the former-president’s birthday - in the presence of numerous politicians, celebrities and members of the public. An exhibition of news agency photographs of Mr Havel was also opened, with a parallel exhibit to be made in London. The idea to rename the airport after the last Czechoslovak and first Czech president’s was launched in the days following his death last December, and was petitioned by tens of thousands of people. Outside the Czech Republic, a library in Paris, a building of the European Parliament and several streets in Poland have been renamed in honour of the statesman and champion of human rights and liberty.
The absence of President Václav Klaus from Friday’s airport ceremony was remarked upon and even criticised by a number of the VIP guests in attendance. Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra and Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda both said they would have expected the president to attend. The author of the plan to rename the airport, producer Fero Fenič, said he was disappointed by the president’s absence, as he had hoped Mr Klaus would be consistent in the admiration he had shown for his predecessor at Mr Havel’s funeral last December. Mr Klaus did not give a reason for not attending and his schedule for the day was unknown. Presidents Klaus and Havel were generally considered to be heated political rivals and distant from one another personally and professionally.
The Havel family’s VIZE 97 foundation has given its annual prize to the late Czech sociologist and university lecturer Miloslav Petrusek. The award is presented each year on October 5, the day of the late president’s birthday. Professor Petrusek, a former dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University in Prague, did not live to receive the Havel foundation´s award himself, as he died on August 19, aged 75. His grandson Jan Holub will accept the award from Dagmar Havlová. A former advisor to the president, Petrusek was the author or co-author of a number of sociological studies, textbooks and articles and held the post of vice-rector of Charles University.
President Václav Klaus has told the daily Lidové noviny that the airgun attack on him last week may not have been an ‘isolated incident’. In an interview to be published on Saturday, the president considered the possibility of a broader conspiracy based on claims that a record of his bodyguards’ communications during the incident may have been falsified. If that record was not created by the attacker himself, the president said, then the attack was not the isolated act of a troubled person. Klaus, who has called the attack an assassination attempt, also said the media debate over his use of the word was based in leftist hatred. Last Friday, a 26-year-old man pulled an airsoft pistol on Mr Klaus at a public event and fired seven pellets at him at point-blank range, causing bruises and cuts.
A court has rejected a request from MP David Rath to be released from prison on bail. The District Court for Prague East made the decision on Friday citing concerns that the former governor of Central Bohemia could flee the country. Two other suspects involved in the corruption scandal were released on bail this week. Dr. Rath and five others have been in prison since May, when the then-governor of Central Bohemia was arrested after receiving seven million crowns in a box. He and ten others are charged with bribery and manipulating public tenders.
Justice Minister Pavel Blažek sharply criticised this week’s police raid on the Ministry of Labour in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the daily Právo reports. According to the paper, Mr Blažek claimed that Monday’s raid was a theatrical attempt to influence upcoming regional and Senate elections and the police should explain why it was not undertaken earlier or later, after elections. Deputy labour minister Vladimir Šiška and departmental head Milan Hojer were both detained in the raid and accused of bribery and manipulating public tenders, leading Labour Minister Jaromír Drábek of the TOP 09 party to resign two days later. The Justice Minister’s office has so far declined to comment on the matter.
Confidence in the government is at an all-time low, according to a new poll by the STEM agency. The survey suggests that confidence has sunk to 17%, a five-point drop since February. Confidence among followers of the senior ruling party, the Civic Democrats, dropped heavily over the course of the year, from 52% to 38%. The office of the president, meanwhile, showed a 70% confidence rating in September. The Senate and Chamber of Deputies showed results of 28 and 24%, respectively, meaning a decline of two points for the lower house.
The Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile, Lobsang Sangay, will be coming to Prague for this year’s Forum 2000, which will take place at the end of October. Mr Sangay became the highest ranking politician in the exile community last year, when the Dalai Lama removed his own political power within the Central Tibetan Administration, located in northern India. The Dalai Lama himself has also been an attendee at the Forum 200 conference on previous occasions.
The family of one of the victims of the so-called Heparin Killer will not receive compensation from the Havličkův Brod hospital where the murders took place. The Supreme Court rejected their case on the grounds that the hospital did not bear responsibility for the actions of the killer, who was one of its nurses, and that heparin was not the immediate cause of the woman’s death. The plaintiffs were seeking 3.5 million crowns. The killer, Petr Zelenka, was convicted of killing seven patients and attempting to kill 10 others in 2006, when he injected them with the blood-thinning drug. He is serving a life sentence in prison.
Health Minister Leoš Heger has agreed with spirits manufacturers on a joint approach to preventing alcohol use among minors. A new bill on addictive substances is to cover prevention among minors, alcohol sales methods and modify health controls and fines. The Health Ministry said that under the proposed bill, those who sell alcohol to minors could face not only the current financial penalty of up to three million crowns, but could also lose their licences. The Ministry is giving its proposals to a inter-ministerial coordination group that the government created on Wednesday. The group has two weeks to submit the new legislation to the government which will also enable authorities to crack down more on bootleg producers. The move comes in the wake of a serious outbreak of methanol-related deaths from bootleg liquor, which estimates say makes up 20 percent of the spirits market.