Free checks carried out on almost 7,000 bottles of spirits found that 40 contained potentially lethal amounts of methanol, the Czech Republic’s chief hygiene officer, Vladimír Valenta, said on Thursday. Mr. Valenta said the tests, which were carried out by officials from his agency, could have saved the lives of the owners of the spirits. Last year 42 people died in the Czech Republic from drinking poisonous bootleg booze and the sale of all spirits was banned for a fortnight.
Household debt in the Czech Republic fell month-on-month in January for the first time since September 2001, according to data just released. Last month Czechs owed CZK 1.164 trillion to banks and other financial institutions, twice the figure recorded 11 years ago. The Czech Republic is currently going through its longest recession on record and the decline in household debt suggests that Czechs are worried about spending, preferring to save than owe money.
The Senate’s organisational committee has recommended that senators approve a motion calling for the filing of a charge of treason against President Václav Klaus at the Constitutional Court. The upper house is set to vote on the matter on Monday. The motion has been put forward by a cross-party group of senators. They say Mr. Klaus acted unconstitutionally by declaring a controversial amnesty in January, as well as in connection with other decisions. The president, who steps down next Thursday, has dismissed the vote as a political game. For his part, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said it was the sorriest move he had seen in two decades in politics.
The police have charged a former director of the Prague transport authority, Martin Dvořák, with corruption. The charge relates to the awarding of a contract to the company Cross Point, which allegedly earned four times more from selling tickets at metro stations than the firm which previously provided that service. The transport authority abrogated its contract with Cross Point last year. For his part, Mr. Dvořák rejects any accusation of wrongdoing; he says he is himself preparing to file a complaint against the charges.
The Prague Municipal Court on Thursday handed a 22-year jail term to Andranik Soghoyan, an alleged member of the Russian criminal group known as Vory v Zakone. Mr. Soghoyan, who was tried in absentia was found guilty of ordering a contract killing on an Armenian businessman; the court heard, however, that the hired assassin had murdered the wrong man and stabbed another man. Mr. Soghoyan has twice been acquitted by a lower court; in both cases an appeals court ruled against him. Two of his accomplices received terms of 12 and 18 years.
Speaking on a week-long visit to Prague, the well-known Cuban blogger and dissident Yoani Sanchez said the changes implemented by President Raul Castro did not go far enough and should not hoodwink the world. She said persecution of the opposition was just as intensive as it had been under the previous leader, Fidel Castro, and that there had been no decline in the number of political prisoners or let-up in censorship. Ms. Sanchez, who is on an extensive international tour, has been able to travel thanks to an ease in restrictions introduced by Havana last month.
Details have emerged of plans for the inauguration of Miloš Zeman as president next Friday. After being sworn in a ceremony at the Vladislav Hall at Prague Castle at 10:00 AM, Mr. Zeman will inspect a military parade before laying flowers at the remains of Saint Václav, the Czech patron saint, and a wreath at a statue of the first president of Czechoslovakia, T.G. Masaryk. He will then have lunch with senior constitutional officials.
The Oscar-winning art director and production designer Karel Černý is to receive a Czech Lion award for extraordinary contribution to Czech cinematography. Mr. Černý, who is 90, won the Academy Award for his work on the 1984 Miloš Forman movie Amadeus, much of which was shot in Prague. The presentation will take place during the Czech Lions, the country’s annual film awards, on Saturday night.
The governing body of European soccer, UEFA, has reacted to a decision by the Czech Football Association to leave all investigations of alleged corruption to the Czech police. In a letter the Czech FA is reported to have received a week ago, UEFA said football disciplinary proceedings cannot be dependent on results produced by bodies active in criminal proceedings. However, the chairman of the Czech FA, Miroslav Pelta, said on Thursday that his organisation and UEFA were in accord on the matter, which had already been dealt with.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said he is not prepared to appoint former prime minister and unsuccessful presidential candidate Jan Fischer to any ambassadorial post. The foreign minister, who has been discussing candidates for several ambassadorial posts with president-elect Miloš Zeman, said in an interview for Wednesday’s Lidové noviny that Mr. Fischer had no experience in diplomatic service and advised him to stick to his field of expertise. The statement comes amid speculation that the president-elect may have promised Mr. Fischer a post in diplomatic service as a show of gratitude for supporting him in the presidential election.