The Czech anti-monopoly office has moved to cancel a tender announced by the Czech National Museum for the reconstruction of its new headquarters, the building that formerly housed the Czechoslovak federal parliament at the upper end of Wenceslas Square. The anti-monopoly office said it has found serious errors in the 100-million-crown tender which would need to be corrected. The museum has not appealed the decision.
The Constitutional Court has invalidated several articles from the government’s health and social reform laws which were part of a package of laws contested by the opposition. Chief Justice Pavel Rychetský said the articles in question, such as that introducing compulsory community service for the jobless, were unconstitutional, but he upheld the validity of the laws as a whole. The opposition filed a complaint against 14 health, social and pension reform laws on the grounds that they were not properly debated and that opponents of the bills were restricted in their right to address Parliament in the matter. The ruling is seen as a partial victory for the opposition which had been hoping to see the entire package of reform bills invalidated.
Two foreign nationals being deported from Denmark to Romania attempted to escape during a stop-over at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport on Monday evening. They failed to board a waiting bus and ran across the tarmac to a fence where they were caught by police. Officers had to restrain the two men. The police were reportedly not informed about the reasons for their deportation.
Air pollution is reported to have worsened severely in parts of Moravia and Silesia with the concentration of dust particles in the air far exceeding permitted norms at 9 out of 15 monitoring stations. According to data from the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute the concentration of harmful substances in the air is more than double the permitted norm in Ostrava and exceeds it three times in Karvina where the authorities have advised elderly people and children to stay indoors as much as possible. Air pollution plaques the region for most of the winter months and has increased the incidence of allergies and asthma among the locals.
Some 150 people attended a demonstration outside the Greek embassy in Prague on Monday in support of two Czechs (Martin Pezlar and Ivan Buchta) detained in Greece over alleged spying. Organisers handed a petition signed by 21,000 people to the embassy, calling for Messrs. Pezlar and Buchta’s release. The Czech Foreign Ministry was also to be given a copy. The organisers read a brief statement in which they called the charges against the suspects, who work for a Czech software company, unsubstantiated and voiced the conviction that the two men were innocent. The two Czechs were arrested on Lemnos island on September 9 for allegedly not heeding ban and photographing a military area; if found guilty of espionage, the duo could be sentenced to between five and 20 years in prison. Last week, Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas discussed the case with his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaris.
The head of the VZP insurance company, Pavel Horák, and the head of the firm’s administrative board, Marek Šnajdr, have stepped down. The Health Ministry had been pushing for changes in the VZP’s top management for some time, allegedly over a poor running of the company and a failure to communicate with the ministry. Eighteen of 20 members on the administrative board elected Zdeněk Kabátek to take over at the helm; seven were against and two abstained. Deputy Health Minister Petr Nosek, meanwhile, replaces Marek Šnajdr as the head of the board.
Fire fighters had to attend to a fire in an industrial zone in Rudná near Prague on Monday, in which chlorine and phosgene were released. Two people had to be treated for inhalation. The chemicals were not released outside affected areas of the plant. The fire was called in around noon and was put out six hours later. Damage has been estimated at around 20 million crowns.
Prague’s House of Light is offering free anonymous testing for HIV throughout the final week of November. The annual drive to try to curb the spread of the deadly virus, which leads to AIDS, is part of the Art for Life campaign. So far this year the public has donated 160,000 crowns towards HIV prevention.
In more detail, disqualified candidate Tomio Okamura made clear at a press briefing on Monday that he was willing to go as far as the Constitutional Court over the Interior Ministry’s decision to invalidate more than 26,000 signatures in his favour, putting him below the 50,000 threshold. He has currently opted to petition the Supreme Administrative Court over the Interior Ministry’s decision. Ministry officials came under criticism for adding two separate counts of questionable signatures rather than averaging them. The senator made clear, however, in his view the only adequate step would be for all signatures in support of the 11 presidential candidates to be checked. At his briefing on Monday, Mr Okamura maintained that peoples’ rights were being trampled on for having made a mistake (such as leaving out an address when filling in the forms). The recently-elected senator is being represented by well-known lawyer Klára Samková.
The former head of the Prague City Police force, Vladimír Kotrouš, pleaded guilty in court on Monday, confirming that last year he accepted a bribe from Josef Jíša, the owner of a car service company. The former police chief was caught last November with a bribe of 150 thousand crowns; he alleged that he had received the funds on the promise he would help Mr Jíša’s firm gain a contract with the municipal force. Mr Kotrouš explained, as motivation for his deed, that his family had gotten into unexpected financial difficulty.
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