The Prague High Court has sentenced Civic Democrat MP Roman Pekárek to five years in prison for bribery and abuse of office. As deputy mayor of Kolín, central Bohemia, Pekárek allegedly received a one million crown bribe for selling municipal land to a businessman under price. While the price was officially set at 41 million crowns, Pekárek pushed through a 15 million crown deal, arguing that the value of the land substantially decreased due to the economic crisis. Pekárek received a six year sentence from a lower court in May, but he appealed the verdict. The verdict of the Prague High Court is definitive.
Coalition and opposition politicians have called on MP Roman Pekárek to vacate his seat in the lower house without delay. Under Czech law an MP cannot be forced to do so under any circumstances. The case has renewed debate on a proposal to amend the law so that an MP would automatically lose his mandate if found guilty of a crime. Deputy Pekárek’s continued presence in the lower house would not only be a public disgrace but the governing coalition could lose its fragile majority in the lower chamber. Roman Pekárek has refused to say what his intention is.
Events have been held around the country in remembrance of the late president Vaclav Havel on the first anniversary of his death. A mass is to be celebrated in memory of the country’s first post-communist president in the Church of Our Lady before Týn and around 300 people joined a commemorative procession through the city centre on Tuesday. People have been lighting candles in places associated with the late president and in the Moravian metropolis Brno members of the public attended the unveiling of a wax heart made of the thousands of candles lit in the wake of Václav Havel’s death a year ago. A requiem mass celebrated by Cardinal Dominik Duka was held at the Church of St. Anne on the eve of the anniversary and broadcast live by Czech Television.
The speaker of the Senate, Milan Štěch, has criticized what he called “the poor level of communication” between the coalition and opposition parties. Addressing the upper house on occasion of the 16th anniversary of its founding Mr. Štech said that the lack of communication not just with the lower chamber by also with government ministers contributed to the public’s flagging trust in political institutions. The Social Democrat senator said that in the past 16 years the upper chamber had justified its existence in reviewing proposed legislation and noted that the government proposed reforms would be more widely accepted by the public if criticism and recommendations from the Senate were given greater consideration instead of just being overruled by a majority vote in the lower house.
The police have uncovered the biggest storage of bootleg liquor in the country’s history. According to a police statement a raid on a former construction warehouse revealed 1.2 million liters of illegal spirits. The state would have lost 330 million crowns in tax revenues. The police have detained several people for questioning.
The Czech army chief-of-staff, Petr Pavel, on Tuesday decorated six soldiers who served on observer missions in the Congo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Egyptian-Israeli border zone. General Petr Pavel thanked them for the courage and dedication with which they served their countries noting that while observer missions were not generally perceived as dangerous they could be extremely challenging with international observers coming under rebel attacks and falling prey to diseases such malaria.
Marek Benda will replace Zbynek Stanjura as head of the Civic Democrats’ deputies group in the lower house of Parliament. The forty-four-year-old Benda was nominated for the post by the party’s leadership and received 33 out of 44 votes in a secret ballot. Jan Bureš is to serve as his deputy. Zbynek Stanjura left the post after being appointed transport minister last week. The Civic Democrats’ deputies group currently has 49 members.
The Education Ministry has approved the use of a newly-designed script to facilitate reading and writing. The so-called Comenia Script is being presented as an alternate to the traditional script where letters must be slanted to the right, perfectly formed and linked up. The simpler Comenia Script, created by a graphic artist, has already been tested in several schools and has won wide approval both from teachers and students. The new handwriting also offers easier versions as regards capital letters, with fewer loops and twirls. The new script was tailored to those used in Great Britain, the US and Scandinavia.
Prague is planning to build more day centers and shelters for the homeless, a spokesperson for the city council said on Tuesday. Councilors approved the plan in view of statistics indicating that the number of homeless people in the Czech capital could triple by 2020. At present there are approximately 4,000 homeless people in Prague and in harsh winter weather the facilities for them are woefully inadequate. The city council is also planning to introduce programs which would help as many of them as possible return to a normal life.
Firefighters on Tuesday responded to a blaze at a restaurant – part of a local train station - at Špičák Mountain in the area of Klatovy. The fire brigade had to overcome icy sections of road to get to the fire. On site, fire fighters pulled two pressurized canisters from the building. Damages have been estimated at around one million crowns.
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