Nine people have been arrested in a police raid on the Heřmanice prison house in Ostrava. Officers have been searching the premises and questioning employees since Friday night. The director of the prison house said he was fully cooperating with the authorities but refused to provide any details. According to the daily Právo the raid is linked to the suspect business activities of several prison guards who may have assisted in scam practices at a nearby scrap metal yard where prisoners from the jailhouse are employed. In view of the ongoing investigation the police have not released any details on the case.
Ondřej Liška was re-elected leader of the Green Party at the party’s weekend conference in the town of Česká Třebová on Saturday. The party’s old-new leader clashed with his main rival for the post former party head Martin Bursík over the party’s direction. While Mr. Bursík stressed that the Greens should fight to regain lost voters on the right of the Czech political spectrum Ondřej Liška argued there were no potential allies right of centre who would help implement the Green’s policy programme. He stressed the need to address the young generation which is generally receptive to green issues and build up a strong support base. The Greens were relegated to the sidelines of Czech politics after failing to cross the 5 percent threshold needed to win seats in the lower house in the 2010 general elections.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has promised to assist the Czech Republic in ascertaining the main sources of pollution in the heavily contaminated Ostrava region and offer advice on how to tackle the problem effectively. American scientists are expected to visit the region for a fact-finding study at the end of this and the beginning of next year. A comprehensive study of this kind was last undertaken in 1995 but the situation has not improved since and air-pollution in the region remains a serious problem that negatively affects people’s health. Doctors report a high incidence of allergies and asthma directly linked to the smog situation that plagues the region’s inhabitants throughout the winter months.
Clean-up work continues west of Kolín where a Czech-made L-159 fighter jet crashed in a field on its way back to base from a training session on Thursday evening. A defense ministry spokesperson confirmed on Saturday that the plane’s black box had been located and most of the debris from the jet had been assembled and transported to the military technical institute for inspection. Soldiers remain at the site of the accident and are still combing it for small parts with the help of metal detectors. The investigation which is to ascertain the cause of the accident may take weeks.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Friday met with his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras to discuss the case of two Czechs who have been charged with espionage in Greece. The Czech prime minister asked the Greek head of government to devote particular attention to the case, saying it was extremely unlikely that the two men, both software specialists, had been involved in spying. The two Czechs were arrested while holidaying in Greece after having taken photographs of military installations on Lemnos Island. The men allegedly took the pictures to give a computer game they were working on greater authenticity. If convicted to espionage they would face prison sentences of up to 20 years.
A mass was held in Prague on Saturday in memory of the English-born Renaissance poetess Elizabeth Jane Weston, who spent nearly all her life in Prague and died 400 years ago. The mass took place at the Church of St. Thomas where she is buried. Known as Virgo Angla (the English Maiden) at the court of Rudolph II at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries she was considered one of Europe’s great poets. Elizabeth Jane Weston wrote in Latin and a collection of her poems was published in Czech in 2003.
The world-famous opera diva Anna Netrebko charmed Prague opera lovers on Friday night with a concert performance of Tchaikovsky’s lyrical opera Jolanta. The Smetana Hall of Prague’s Obecni dum was packed for the event and Ms. Netrebko got a ten-minute standing ovation for her first ever performance in the Czech Republic. The concert was billed as one of the highlights of this year’s music scene and was hopelessly sold out months in advance.
Three candidates for the presidential race – Jana Bobošíková, Vladimír Dlouhý and Tomio Okamura – have been disqualified by the Interior Ministry for having failed to meet the requirements. The ministry said on Friday that the three candidates failed to submit the required 50,000 signatures in support of their candidacy. The disqualified candidates may contest the ministry’s decision in court. Eight candidates are now left in the race including three – senators Jiří Dienstbier and Přemysl Sobotka and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg – who were nominated by MPs or senators and did not therefore need to present any signatures to run for the post. Former prime minister Jan Fischer has topped the polls so far, followed by another ex-prime minister Miloš Zeman.
In related news, doubts have appeared about the Interior Ministry’s method of calculating the number of invalid signatures supporting the presidential candidates’ bids. The ministry took two samples of the total amount of signatures in support of each candidate, and verified whether they were valid. It then added the two error rates and deducted it from the total number of signatures. However, the news website ihned.cz reported that according to the act on the presidential election, ministry officials should only deduce an average rate error from the total number of signatures. In that case, one of the disqualified candidates, Jana Bobošíková, would have remained in the race. Interior Ministry officials said the issue would have to be resolved in court.
Two of the three presidential candidates whom the Interior Ministry disqualified from running in January’s presidential election said they would contest the ministry’s decision in court. Jana Bobošíková announced she would continue her campaign until a court verdict confirms her disqualification. Meanwhile, Vladimír Dlouhý said she would appeal to the country’ Supreme Administrative Court to make sure the number of invalid signatures in his support was calculated correctly. The third candidate barred from running, Tomio Okamura, said he would consult his lawyers and announce his decision next week.