The Czech president, Václav Klaus, says he did not decide on an amnesty announced on New Year’s Day with any particular cases in mind. Mr. Klaus made the comment in an interview in Mladá fronta Dnes, following growing criticism of one plank of the amnesty under which long-running cases of alleged massive corruption have been dropped. He said that decision was in line with European Union norms against excessively long cases, adding that he would also announce at least one pardon before he steps down in March.
The opposition Social Democrats announced on Thursday that they would table a vote of no-confidence in the Czech government in connection with the president’s amnesty, which had prior approval from the prime minister, Petr Nečas. The party expressed opposition to both the form and extent of the amnesty, describing it as unacceptable, unjust and inflammatory. Chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said it freed those involved in large financial scandals in the 1990s, including the asset-stripping of banks and companies and corruption linked to privatisation.
Meanwhile, the second largest party in the governing coalition, TOP 09, on Thursday distanced themselves from the president’s amnesty. In a statement, TOP 09 said the matter had not been discussed in advance by the government and that its ministers had no foreknowledge of the move. The party said the extent of the amnesty was unfortunate; it had led to speculation that it was intended to protect genuine criminals rather than pardoning minor crimes.
The amnesty also pardons prisoners sentenced to a year or less behind bars and those over 75 whose sentence was for less than 10 years. Nearly 7,500 people are set for release, with around 3,000 having been freed already. Courts established temporarily in jails are processing applications around the clock. Around a quarter of the Czech prison population are getting early releases, in a move that officials say will ease over-crowding.
Two men released under the amnesty have already been arrested again. The two, who were both aged 27, left Vladice prison in central Bohemia at around 10:30 PM on Wednesday and – after a night’s drinking – apparently returned to a life of crime on Thursday morning, when they allegedly robbed a bar and attempted to burgle a car. They will not be remanded in custody while their investigation takes place.
LIDEM are prepared to talk to the other parties in the government about the future of the coalition, their leader Karolína Peake said after a senior party meeting on Thursday. Representatives of the three groupings should meet in the first half of next week. LIDEM had previously “called on” its ministers to quit the cabinet on January 10, after Mrs. Peake was sacked after only eight days in the post of defence minister. LIDEM broke off from the party Public Affairs, when it quit the government after becoming involved in a number of scandals.
An important section of one of Prague’s three underground rail lines was halted for over an hour on Thursday morning when a person was reported to have entered the tunnel at the city’s Nusle Bridge. However, a search of the metro tunnel – which runs between I.P. Pavlova and Vyšehrad on the C or red line – failed to find the intruder. A replacement bus service was put in place until the problem was resolved.
Thieves have stolen metal plates from a memorial at Český ráj (Bohemian Paradise) in central Bohemia to people who have died while climbing, the news website idnes.cz reported. The plates bore the names of fallen climbers from the Czech Republic and other countries, along with the dates and exact locations where they met their deaths. The Český ráj “graveyard” was created in 1970 following the deaths of several members of a Czechoslovak expedition in Peru.
Tests have revealed that a gorilla born at Prague zoo a couple of days before Christmas is male. The zoo is now looking for a name for the infant ape and has invited the general public to send suggestions to its website before January 20. While gorillas have been kept at Czech zoos for 60 years, the first baby gorilla was born in the country in 2004.
The Czech international soccer goalkeeper, Petr Čech, has been ruled out for up to three weeks with a groin injury. The Chelsea star was taken off at half-time last weekend in what was his 400th appearance for the English Premier League club. In a tweet, the Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez said he was optimistic about Čech returning soon.