Over 230,000 people have signed a petition for the nomination of Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved over than 600 Czechoslovak Jewish children from certain death by transporting them to Britain before the breakout of World War Two, for the Nobel Peace Prize. The petition, organized by students from Open Gate grammar school near Prague, will be delivered to Nobel Committee secretary Geir Lundestad in Oslo on Friday. The speaker of the Czech lower house Miroslava Němcová submitted Nicolas Winton´s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in January for the third successive year. Mr. Winton turned 104 in May and the Nobel Prize can only be awarded to a living person.
The news has evoked an outcry on the Czech political scene with the opposition demanding an explanation from the prime minister at a session of the lower house on Friday. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said the reports coming through were extremely grave and needed to be clarified as soon as possible. The party leadership will meet on Thursday to consider further action.
The Civic Democratic Party’s coalition partners TOP 09 and LIDEM have been cautious in their response to the raids, saying they would issue official statements after obtaining more information on the case. At a press conference in Prague on Thursday night TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg said the country was now at a cross-roads: if the police operation is seen to be fully justified it would re-enforce democracy in the country, should the police and state attorney’s office fail to provide convincing evidence it would severely undermine trust in the country’s institutions.
The government has set aside an additional 557 million crowns for flood relief, bringing the total amount pledged to deal with damage in areas and ensuing clean-up operations to 7.3 billion. Insurance companies have registered 30,000 insurance claims amounting to almost four billion crowns to date; the agriculture sector, meanwhile, suffered damages of more than 3.5 billion in the recent floods which hit a number of regions in Bohemia.
Czech Radio has issued a statement expressing disquiet over the Greek government's decision to halt the broadcasting of the country's public service television and radio stations. The Czech station said the Greek government should not threaten the human rights of freedom and the right to information for all, adding that the independence of public service media was one of the pillars of democracy.
It has emerged that the police investigation also concerns at least two influential lobbyists, Roman Janoušek and Ivo Ritting. Mr. Janoušek is currently at his summer residence in Croatia, but the police reportedly raided his Prague office on Wednesday night. Investigators have also asked Prague City Hall for a copy of all contracts signed with Janoušek in the past.
In a public statement to the nation, Prime Minister Petr Necas said he saw
no reason to resign from office in the wake of a police raid on the Office
of the Government late Wednesday. The prime minister said his conscience
was clear and he had seen no evidence implicating those of his associates
who were detained in the night raid. He called on the police and State
Attorney’s Office in Olomouc to clarify the reasons behind the extensive
police operation in which several people were detained, among others the
prime minister’s closest aide Jana Nagyova and the head of the Office of
the Government Lubomir Poul. The prime minister said that from the
information he had received in the course of the day it appeared that the
case revolved around three rebel Civic Democrat MPs who were suspected of
having accepted bribes in return for giving up their seats in Parliament.
The prime minister called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday evening to debate the crisis.
The Czech Republic has moved up by seven notches to 14th place in KPMG’s global chart of VAT rates. This is due to an increase in the basic VAT rate to 21 percent in January of this year, while the average global basic VAT rate is 15.55 percent. The European average VAT rate is 20.5 percent. The tax burden on Czechs is thus higher than the global, as well as European average.
President Milos Zeman has scheduled a meeting on Friday with the prime minister, the police chief and opposition leader Bohuslav Sobotka to discuss the government crisis. The president’s office said Mr. Zeman would not be commenting on developments until he had received reliable information on the case.
A spokesman for the police’s organized crime unit on Thursday confirmed
what he called an extensive police operation which he said was still
underway and the fact that the police had made several arrests. He said
operation, involving hundreds of police officers, was being supervised by
the State Attorney’s Office in Olomouc and all the steps undertaken were
made within the bounds of the law. In view of the ongoing investigation he
refused to provide further details.
According to the internet news site iDnes.cz the police have charged eight people in connection with the investigation. Police have refused to confirm the news saying more information will be released on Friday.
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