The police have arrested five men and charged them with blackmail, robbery and other crimes, a spokesman for the organized crime unit of Czech police said on Friday. The men allegedly targeted wealthy people in the Pardubice region in eastern Bohemia and blackmailed them for money, using threats of violence against them and their families. They also allegedly set at least eight cars on fire, two of which belonged to police officers investigating the case, the police said.
Arsenal FC and Czech international midfielder Tomáš Rosický could appear in a league game next week, after a five month absence caused by injury. Arsenal manager Arséne Wenger said the 32-year-old Czech footballer should be back with the team on Monday, a week after he resumed training with the team. Tomáš Rosický injured his Achilles tendon during the European championships in June. Next week, Arsenal plays Everton and Swansea in the Premier League.
Speaking in Brussels just ahead of a key summit on the EU’s next seven-year budget, the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, said he would fight a proposed cut in the bloc’s cohesion fund; the Czech Republic has had EUR 26.7 billion at its disposal between 2007 and 2013, with the money available to all regions except Prague. Mr. Nečas said plans to reduce that sum to EUR 19.5 billion between 2014 and 2020 were unacceptable. He said the Czech Republic, unlike a number of states, was not threatening a veto, but, he added, neither would it approve any plan whatsoever.
A Czech military pilot died on Thursday after his fighter plane crashed west of Kolín in central Bohemia. The pilot was returning to base from exercises when his Czech-built L 159 one-seater aircraft came down in an unpopulated area and burst into flames, a spokesperson for the General Staff told reporters. His body was found in the wreckage. The cause of the crash is being investigated.
A Czech government bill to return billions of dollars worth of property confiscated from churches under the Communist regime is set to go into effect, after the president, Václav Klaus, said that he had not vetoed it. However, neither did the president sign the legislation, saying he wished to distance himself from the plan, which has proven divisive among Czech society. Under the bill, the state will return part of the land and property seized by the Communists in the 1950s, while it will repay the rest of the original value in the form of monetary compensation over a period of 30 years. Both the Social Democrats and the Communist Party say they will take the matter to the Constitutional Court.
The Ministry of the Interior is preparing to announce which of 20 aspirants to the post of president have fulfilled the requirements to win a place on the ballot in January’s first direct election. Some would-be candidates may be disqualified for having false signatures among the 50,000 minimum required to stand if they do not have the support of a party in parliament. Which aspirants have made the cut will be announced on Friday afternoon. Those denied a place on the ballot have until the middle of next week to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has written to his Greek counterpart, Karolos Papulias, asking him to devote special attention to the case of two Czechs detained in Greece on suspicion of espionage. Mr. Klaus described the arrests as unfortunate and called on the Greek head of state not to allow the matter to cast a shadow over their two states’ excellent relations. Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar, who are computer game developers, have been behind bars since September, after allegedly taking photographs of a military facility on the island of Lemnos.
The art group Ztohoven have sparked controversy by inviting gallery goers to send anonymous mobile phone text messages to Czech politicians. Their installation Moral Reform in an exhibition at Prague’s DOX Centre of Modern Art features the mobile numbers of numerous politicians and a free, untraceable phone. One target, the minister of finance, Miroslav Kalousek, told the iDnes news website that he had received hundreds of SMSes, some of them vulgar and threatening. Mr. Kalousek said, however, that he had had his number for over a decade and had no intention of changing it. Ztohoven have frequently come into conflict with the law; one member, Roman Týc, was imprisoned for a month this year after amending traffic lights to show the red and green figures in various poses.
A zookeeper was attacked by a white tiger at the zoo in the north Bohemian town of Liberec on Thursday morning. He sustained head injuries but his life is not in danger, a spokesperson for the local emergency services said. Two other zoo employees were slightly hurt as they tried to rescue their colleague. After the attack, the escaped seven-year-old tiger moved about the zoo for about an hour before being tranquilised and recaptured. Liberec zoo is known for its white tigers, a rare breed believed to no longer exist in the wild.
The Czech Republic’s first car park spots designated for women have been created at a branch of the fast food chain McDonalds in Prague, the news website novinky.cz reported on Thursday. The places reserved for women – which are located in relatively areas near main buildings – are intended to increase users’ safety by reducing the risk of attack. A spokesperson for McDonalds said the special spots were in line with EU voluntary guidelines and were common in some European states.