Liquor sales are reported to have dropped by 10 percent in the wake of the methanol poisonings. According to the head of the Union of Spirits Producers Petr Pavlik, 2012 was the worst year for Czech spirits producers since 1990. Czechs are not only consuming less spirits in pubs and restaurants, they are also shunning home liquor brands in favour of costlier imported labels and drinking more wine and beer. Vodka sales in particular are significantly lower.
A recently amnestied prisoner has been charged with the death of a 55-year-old man. The suspect has been charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm resulting in death. The victim was found dead with facial wounds and other injuries. Two other amnestied prisoners have also been arrested after stealing money from a local bar within hours of being released. The broad amnesty declared by President Vaclav Klaus on January 1st has been widely criticized both by the government and opposition. According to the Justice Ministry it may relate to an estimated 32,000 people.
A 32-year-old man drowned in the Morava River in Olomouc after taking a dive from a bridge in order to impress his two female companions. The trio had been drinking at a bar nearby prior to the incident. Two officers who were in the vicinity tried in vain to save the man and one of them nearly lost his own life in the rain-swollen river. Divers later found the man’s body several miles downstream.
A derelict building in the centre of Beroun collapsed in the early hours of Saturday. Fears that there could be squatters buried under the debris proved unfounded, although firemen sifting through the wreckage found personal belongings, bottles and cigarette butts. According to a police spokeswoman the building collapsed due to long years of neglect and the present adverse weather conditions. It had been raining heavily in the area for several days.
The Czech Constitutional Court on Friday unanimously rejected a request to postpone the country’s first direct presidential elections, and confirmed that the vote will take place on the originally planned dates; the first round of voting will be held on January 11 and 12, the second two weeks later. The request came from Senator Tomio Okamura whom the Interior Ministry refused to register as candidate. Mr Okamura demanded the election be postponed, and filed a complaint against the ministry’s decision. The Constitutional Court is yet to rule on Mr Okamura’s complaint itself; however, the court said he would not be allowed to stand in the election itself. Reacting to the court’s decision, Senator Okamura said the verdict would create doubts about the election and its legitimacy. The Constitutional Court on Friday also rejected complaints by three other people who were not registered as candidates for the election.
The presidential candidates have welcomed the decision by the Constitutional Court to hold the election on the originally planned dates. Jan Fischer said the decision was good news for Czech citizens, while Táňa Fischerová said she considered the decision wise. For his part, Přemysl Sobotka believes the verdict was appropriate, as people had been getting nervous about whether or not the election would take place, while Jiří Dienstbier said he had expected the court to reject the request to postpone the election. Karel Schwarzenberg said he was glad the vote would take place as originally planned, adding he hoped the decision would not undermine the election’s legitimacy. Nine candidates are in the running.
Around 7,200 Czechs living abroad have registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election, the Czech Foreign Ministry said on Friday. That is some 600 people more than those registered to vote in the previous general election. Czech expats will have to cast their ballots at the country’s embassies and consulates; voting in the Americas will begin on Thursday at 5 PM CET due to the time difference.
The opposition Public Affairs party has filed a complaint to the
Constitutional Court over the restitution of church property, its deputy
head said on Friday. The group complains about alleged irregularities in
the procedure in the lower house of Parliament, which approved the deal,
and other issues. The court received the complaint on December 31, its
Last November, the Czech Parliament approved a massive church property restitution deal under which the Roman Catholic Church and other religious group will get back property confiscated by the communist regime worth around 75 billion crowns; they are also set to receive another 59 billion in compensation for property that cannot be returned.
Eight out of 36 Czech prisons on Friday concluded the release of prisoners freed under an amnesty declared by President Václav Klaus. Over 5,000 prisoners have been released so far, or around two-thirds of all those who are serving terms and are affected by the amnesty. In total, the amnesty shoudl affect over 32,000 people. Many of the freed prisoners have no financial means, and prisons therefore provide them with assistance to reach their homes. Several freed prisoners have already been arrested again for crimes committed soon after their release.
More than 80 percent of people oppose the amnesty declared by President Václav Klaus, according to an online poll by the SANEP agency. More than 40 percent of people who took part in the survey consider the amnesty an immoral and irresponsible move which legitimizes serious crime, while 20 percent believe the amnesty will help criminals with links to top politicians. Some 10 percent of those polled approve of the amnesty’s scope.