The Czech Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the former transport minister and Public Affairs party MP Vít Bárta should no longer be investigated for offering bribes in the form of loans to fellow deputies. Mr Bárta had discussed these loans during meetings of the Public Affairs deputies club, where he had immunity as an MP, making the evidence from these meetings inadmissible. The court, though, upheld a suspended 18-month sentence that Mr Bárta received in April for offering bribes to former MPs Jaroslav Škarka and Kristýna Kočí. The two plaintiffs in the highly-publicized case received bribes worth 170,000 and 500,000 crowns, respectively, outside of the deputy meetings.
The political movement Independents filed a complaint with the Regional Court in Ostrava over irregularities during last week’s regional elections in the Olomouc region. Independents have asked for a recount of the vote on the basis of allegations by their voters that some votes were not recorded. Independents’ representative from the Olomouc region Jana Zwyrtek said that during the count, the name of her movement ‘Nezávislí’ may have been confused with a group of independent candidates that ran under a similar name ‘Nezávislá volba‘. The Independents political movement received 4.95% of the votes in the region, just below the 5-percent cutoff.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that the Czech Republic may still veto the proposal to form a single European banking system. The prime minister made the announced in Brussels after a summit, where representatives of EU member states decided to create the banking supervisory system by the first of January. The Czech leader said that it is still not clear how the supervisory system will actual work, and whether it can potentially lead to the destabilization of the Czech banking system, which is why he may still try to block the proposal.
The Czech Foreign Minister and TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg has launched his presidential campaign at a press conference on Friday. The 74-year-old candidate expressed his wish to uphold the legacy of the late former president Václav Havel and defend freedom and openness. Expressed concern over the course on which the Czech Republic is heading and that he would like to see an improvement. Mr Schwarzenberg expressed his belief that the president should not be that much involved in politics, but said that as president he would like to use his power to effectively fight corruption.
The funeral of the famous Czech animator Břetislav Pojar took place on Friday in the Strašnice krematorium in Prague. The author and director of numerous animated films passed away a week ago at the age of 89. Mr Pojar began his career in the 1940’s and used puppet animation and stop motion animation styles in his films. He had emigrated to Canada in the 1960s, where his work for the Canadian Film Board won numerous awards.
Two more victims of methanol poisoning have been hospitalized in the region of Moravia-Silesia. A 60-year-old man was admitted in critical condition on Thursday morning. A 64-year-old man who had been drinking with him was also hospitalised later on, making the 33rd case of methanol poisoning in that region alone. With 17 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak in September, Moravia-Silesia has been the region hardest hit. Starting Thursday, a ban was imposed on the sale of Tuzemák rum produced by Czech company Likérka Drak and distributed by Verdana, after 7,600 bottles of Tuzemák rum containing 50 percent of methanol were discovered in a warehouse belonging to Verdana.
Police have charged five Czechs they believe are members of an international gang of arms dealers. They were arrested in September on suspicion of having sold components of tanks and infantry vehicles over the previous two years, primarily to Poland. The organised crime department of the police says that a part of the illegal trade was being carried out through the head of a Czech company licensed to sell military technology. If convicted, the suspects face up to ten years’ imprisonment.
The Czech Republic has lost a long-running dispute over the designation of butter products. The European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that the phrase “butter spread” could not be applied to products with the equivalent name in Czech because their milk-fat content is lower than required by EU norms. According to the European Commission, which brought the suit, only products with at least 80% milk-fat can be called butter, while Czech regulations require only a 31% milk-fat content. The product in question is considered a traditional speciality by some.
Hundreds of Olah Romanies have gathered in the north-eastern city of Ostrava to pay final respects to their “king”, Jan Lípa, who died on Monday aged 72. Guests arrived from around Central Europe and even the USA for the funeral, which was accompanied by music and discussions of his life, decrees and settled disputes. The king was buried with some of his favourite items, such as his hat and pack of cards, and bottles of wine and even money. The community will mourn for one year before electing a new king, expected to be one of Jan Lípa’s sons. The Olah community, which accounts for around 15 percent of Romanies living in the Czech Republic, is a relatively closed group which has preserved its traditions much more than other Romany groups.
Iraq is interested in purchasing small arms from the Czech Republic, according to the weapons manufacturer Česká zbrojovka. The company’s sales manager told the Czech Press Agency on Thursday that the recent Iraqi delegation to the Czech Republic, which was headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, showed interest in the company’s rifles, submachine guns and pistols. Iraqi representatives are also negotiating a gun servicing and training centre with the company. The main point of Maliki´s visit to Prague was to arrange the purchase of 28 Czech-made L-159 combat aircraft worth about one billion dollars. That contract has yet to be approved by the Iraqi government.