Czechs abroad have started voting in the country’s early general elections. Polling stations in the US open at 2pm local time on Thursday and voters who have registered to vote in the elections will be able to do so until 9 pm on Saturday. Close to 8,000 Czechs around the world have registered to vote in the elections, some travelling hundreds of kilometers to the nearest polling station. There are 104 polling stations outside the Czech Republic, mostly at Czech embassies and consulates. Czechs abroad will be selecting candidates from the central Bohemian ballot. In the Czech Republic polling stations will open at 2pm of Friday and voting will end twenty-four hours later.
Czech President Miloš Zeman has said coal mining limits the Usti region of north Bohemia should be broken in order to save over 8,000 jobs in a region suffering from high unemployment. On a visit to the Ustí nad Labem region on Thursday the president backed calls by the local authorities who have been pushing to lift the government-imposed limits on coal mining in the region approved in 1991 as a means of protecting an already devastated environment. The president further argued that breaking the coal mining limits would lower the Czech Republic´s energy dependence on foreign countries.
The government’s former human rights commissioner Monika Šimůnková has accused the Rusnok cabinet of downplaying the security threat presented by Russian Cossacks in the Czech Republic as a concession to Moscow. Mrs. Šimůnková, who was dismissed as head of the government’s human rights section and later resigned as human rights commissioner said the real reason for her removal from office was a clash over an annual report on the state of minorities in the Czech Republic. She said the report she handed the government contained a warning regarding the risk presented by the cultural association of Russian Cossacks who were actively disseminating Russian propaganda. The prime minister allegedly ordered the passage to be scrapped in order not to antagonize Russia. The former human right’s commissioner has also accused the government of trying to marginalize the human rights agenda and bring it under the interior ministry.
The Prague Supreme Court has raised the sentences for a brutal machete attack on people in a bar in Novy Bor following an appeal by the perpetrators. The court handed Vojtech Husak a 17.5 year sentence in place of the 16 year sentence he appealed, and sent Antonin Sinu to 15 years in jail for attempted murder instead of the 3 years he received from a lower court in Liberec. Jakub Ziga’s 15 year sentence was upheld. The incident happened in August of 2011 after two young Romanies felt they had been slighted by some of the guests in the bar. They left and soon after five other Romanies appeared armed with machetes and knives and started attacking people in the bar at random. One man, who was attacked with a machete, nearly died of his injuries.
Part of the D47 highway from Brno to Ostrava may have to undergo emergency repair work after an inspection found a serious fault in its construction. According to the transport ministry one of the lower layers of the highway –a layer of gravel essential for the stability of the road surface - is missing. It is not yet clear how big a stretch of the road would have to be repaired. The firm which undertook the construction says it wants to see the results of the inspection.
The police are prosecuting 32 people with the smuggling and sale of illegal drugs in Vinařice prison near Kladno outside of Prague. Drugs sold illegally to inmates were for the most part heroin, crystal methamphetamine and marijuana. Drugs were allegedly smuggled in by visiting relatives, through the mail, in packages thrown over the perimeter fence or even by inmates themselves returning to the prison from work. The suspects in the case, if found guilty, could face up to five years in prison, the police revealed on Thursday.
The rector of Masaryk University in Brno, Mikulas Bek, has said he feels slighted by the fact that he is not on the guest list of a celebration at Prague Castle on Czechoslovak Independence Day. The rector of the country’s second largest university has expressed the view that he failed to get invited because he did not enable the president to lecture at Masaryk University so as to maintain political neutrality on academic ground during the election campaign. Prague Castle has not commented on the development. On the occasion of the country’s public holiday the president traditionally bestows state decorations to distinguished personalities, a ceremony attended by politicians, cultural figures, academics and church dignitaries.
An eleven-year-old boy was among those awarded for bravery during a ceremony organized by the Czech Association of Firefighters on Thursday. The boy saved his younger sister’s life by carrying her out of the house when a fire broke out. The association traditionally awards people who risk their lives to save others as well as distinguishing members from its own ranks for acts of exceptional courage.
The Prague gas company Pražská plynárenská is testing its network for potential leaks by intensifying the gas odor additives between now and next Wednesday. People can report leaks at the emergency line 1239. The last such test was undertaken in May of this year following a gas explosion in a building in the centre of Prague.