Zambia’s Interior Minister Kennedy Sekeni has called on three Czech nationals who were charged with espionage but fled the country in December to return for trial, Reuters news agency reported on Saturday. Mr Sekeni said a special police team was investigating how the men left the country. The three Czechs, who work for a Dutch firm, visited Zambia after a business trip to South Africa, and were arrested after they took pictures outside a local military base. They were charged with espionage and face up to 30 years in jail. They returned to the Czech Republic with the help of Czech authorities but no details were given about their escape. Spokesman for the Czech Foreign Minister Vít Kolář said on Saturday the ministry would not comment on the case.
In related news, the Czech Republic will not extradite the three alleged spies to Zambia, Czech Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil told Czech Radio on Saturday. The country’s constitution prohibits the extradition of Czech citizens abroad against their will, Mr Pospíšil said. However, the three suspects could be extradited if an international arrest warrant is issued and they travel to a third country. Minister Pospíšil said the Czech authorities had not yet received an official extradition request from Zambia.
The fate of a Czech citizen aboard the Costa Concordia cruise ship which
capsized off the Italian coast on Friday remains unknown, the online news
portal lidovky.cz reported. There was one Czech national traveling aboard
the ship according to the passengers’ list released on Saturday; however,
the Czech Foreign Ministry has not confirmed that any Czechs were traveling
on the ship.
Some 4,000 passengers were aboard the Costa Concordia which was launched in 2006 by Czech supermodel Eva Herzigova. Three people died in the accident that occurred when the ship ran aground, while another 70 are missing.
Dozens of people gathered in the central Bohemian community of Všetaty, the birthplace of Jan Palach, to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of his death in protest of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague on January 16, 1969, and died in hospital three days later.
In related news, the Polish director Agniezska Holland will shoot a three-part feature film about Jan Palach for the HBO channel, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Saturday. The director will unveil details about the project at a debate about Jan Palach with Charles University students in Prague next week. Agnieszka Holland was studying at Prague FAMU filmmaking school at the time.
More than 2,400 Czechs have applied to the Defence Ministry for the status of members of anti-communist resistance, a spokesman for the ministry said. Each application will be reviewed by the National Archive, the Archive of the Security Forces and the Institute for the Documentation and Investigation of Crimes of Communism before it is approved; the ministry will start granting the status in February. A deputy interior minister said that while some of the applicants included court verdicts in their applications to prove their anti-communist activities, others list their issues with the communist regime that are not related to resistance. Anyone granted the status of anti-communist resistance fighter will receive 100,000 crowns and their retirement pension, if lower than average, will increase to reach the country’s average pension.
The annual Czech film critics’ awards will be handed out in Prague on
Saturday night. 25 feature movies and 21 documentary films are competing in
this year’s installment of the awards. The feature film Poupata, or
Flower Buds, by debuting Zdeněk Jiráský won eight nominations as well as
Robert Sedláček’s Rodina je základ státu, or Long Live the Family.
The films Alois Nebel and Innocence clinched five nominations each.
The film Flower Buds tells the story of a dysfunctional family in small Czech town. Long Live the Family follows a man who is to start his jail sentence for fraud but he has not told his wife and children whom he’s taking on a trip.
Snow and icy roads complicate travel in parts of the Czech Republic. The Ústí region, in the north-west of the country, is among the worst hit by snowing and some roads have been closed. Trucks have clogged traffic on the road leading to the Czech-German border crossing Hora Svatého Šebestiána in the Krušné Mountains; the authorities have asked drivers to exercise extra caution while driving on the D1 motorway between Prague and Brno.
A 63-year-old man who shot dead a 22-year-old-Romany and injured his brother in Tanvald on January 1 acted in self-defense after being assaulted with a knife, regional deputy state attorney Lenka Bradáčová has said. On Friday, the official confirmed that the investigation had ruled out murder or a deliberate act with the intent to kill on the part of the 63-year-old in the shooting incident. But she stressed that whether the degree of self-defence in the case was justified had not yet been gauged. Meanwhile, racial-motivation and robbery in the case have also been ruled out. The results of expert assessments should be available within two to three months.
Police investigators have said they believe an attack on a man and his parents on New Year’s Eve in Varnsdorf, North Bohemia, was racially-motivated. Police charged one of two men on Thursday with disorderly conduct and bodily harm. On New Year’s a group of six Roma allegedly encircled the man and his parents out for a walk and accosted them: two of the people targeted had to be treated in hospital. Police are continuing to investigate the incident. Last summer and autumn, parts of northern Bohemia saw increased ethnic tension as well as organised protests, including by neo Nazis, in the area over an alleged increase of violence, unemployment and other issues. The protests most often were aimed against the local Roma community.