Čestmír Císař, a reformer in Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party in the 1960s, has died at the age of 93. Mr Císař passed away on Sunday following a long bout with illness. In the early 1960s Mr Císař held the high post of secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (KSČ). From 1963 to 1965 he was also the minister of culture and education, but was dismissed for overly liberal views and was sent to serve as ambassador to Romania. Later, he was brought back by Alexander Dubček and was one of several candidates for president following the resignation of Antonín Novotny. After 1989, Mr Císař founded a short-lived group (made up largely of former Prague Spring reformers) backing “democratic socialism”.
A court in the German city of Koblenz handed down four-and-a-half-year jail sentences to a German couple who kidnapped a Czech girl in the north Bohemian town Trmice when she was a few weeks old. The 48-year old woman and a 51-year old man were found guilty of kidnapping, car theft and counterfeiting documents. Both appealed their verdict upon sentencing. The woman, with the help of her partner, kidnapped the girl named Michalka last July from her pram. The police found the newborn a few days later.
The ministry-run organization CERMAT has placed practice versions of the new state high school leaving exam online to give students a chance to practice before they take the real one in the first week of May. After last year’s highly criticised and problematic launch of the unified state exam system, the Education Ministry decided to simplify the structure of the exams and have one level instead of two. Most students have to pass a Czech language exam, and then have a choice of either doing a foreign-language or mathematics examination. This year, out of the 98,082 students registered to take the state exams, 60% chose the foreign language test as their additional exam.
Four youths have been charged with drug trafficking in connection with the death of a 19-year-old student graduate. The young girl overdosed on the party drug Ecstasy at her graduation party last Thursday. Investigators say the pills in question contained an unusually high amount of methamphetamines and other stimulants and have issued a public warning regarding a batch of Ecstasy with the imprint of a dolphin that may be lethal especially when combined with alcohol.
Health Minister Leoš Heger would welcome the practice of putting shocking images on cigarette packs as part of a broad anti-smoking campaign. The health minister said that in his view the drastic pictures could prove effective in putting off young people from smoking. On a panel debate on Sunday the minister admitted that his proposal for a broad smoking ban in restaurants could run into serious problems in the lower house of Parliament, due to intensive lobbying from producers. The government as a whole is against putting shocking images on cigarette packs as being too drastic. The Czech Republic has one of the highest number of smokers in Europe, particularly among the young generation.
The Justice Ministry is considering ways to improve conditions in Czech jailhouses. The move comes in the wake of a stream of complaints from MP David Rath, who has been in detention on corruption charges since last May and who drafted several bills in his cell including one which would improve conditions in Czech prisons. Although his draft proposal was rejected by the cabinet, Justice Minister Pavel Blažek told Czech public television that some suggestions were worth following up, for instance better conditions for hygiene and the possibility to spend more time outdoors.
A Czech tourist and his Slovak guide died in an avalanche in the High Tatra Mountains over the weekend. The Slovak rescue service said it had found their bodies on Saturday evening, locating them by their mobiles. The men were only partly buried and are believed to have died as a result of injuries sustained when the avalanche hurled them down the slope. There is a third degree avalanche alert in force in the region and the Slovak rescue service has advised tourists to exercise extreme caution.
The bout of unseasonably cold weather has been breaking records at monitoring stations around the country. Karlova Studánka in the Jeseníky mountains registered – 19.1 degrees, the lowest temperature on record for this time of year, as did the ski resorts did Pec pod Sněžkou with – 18 degrees and Luční Bouda with – 17.7 degrees Celsius. Out of 143 monitoring stations 96 reported record low temperatures for March 24.
The freezing cold weather has led Prague City Hall to introduce special measures to protect the homeless. Hot soup and tea are being distributed several times a day in the city centre and night shelters for the homeless are open around the clock. The metropolitan police also make regular rounds of the places where the homeless congregate.
The country’s ski resorts report a wave of holiday makers ahead of Easter. Jested hosted 3,000 people over the weekend which is ten times the usual number of skiers at the close of the season. Špindleruv Mlýn reported 7,000 visitors while the Rokytnice nad Jizerou ski resort welcomed 4,500 people. Due to the unusually cold weather and continuing snow showers conditions for skiing are exceptionally good and ski lifts remain in operation. The situation is not expected to change for another week.