The trial of former regional governor David Rath and ten others accused of corruption continued on Thursday with testimony from state witness Ivana Salačová, who maintained that two key defendants, Kateřina Pancová and her partner Petr Kott, asked for a bribe of 20 to 24 million crowns in connection with the reconstruction of Buštěhrad Chateau (costing 200 million). Originally, Mr Rath was to have completed his testimony on Thursday, but asked for a postponement after two hours due to fatigue. The day before he had spoken for four. The court postponed the continuation of his testimony until Friday.
The lower house on Thursday passed legislation put forward by the Senate effectively nixing the controversial S-Card system which was to have streamlined the payment of social benefits for recipients. The system is expected to come to an end later this year; pensioners, welfare recipients or others will receive payments to their account or be able to cash in cheques at their local post office as was the case before. The legislation will now head to the upper house.
The Czech league title holders Viktoria Plzeň beat the Estonian side Kalju 6:2 in the second leg of their Champions League third qualification round tie on Wednesday night. Plzeň had a 4:0 advantage after the first leg in Tallinn and made light work of the visitors, with captain Pavel Horváth scoring a hat-trick that included two fine long-range strikes as the hosts notched up a 10:2 aggregate score-line. There is one more round of qualification for club soccer’s most prestigious competition, though defeat comes with a place in the second-tier tournament the Europa League, guaranteeing Plzeň a place in European competition.
Football’s Chelsea – with goalie Petr Čech – lost to Real Madrid on Wednesday in the International Champions Cup in Miami. The pre-season game saw four goals in all – two of which were scored by Real star Cristiano Ronaldo. His first was a swerving free-kick from 23 metres. After the match, Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho – who coached Real until June – shrugged off the loss. He said it was positive that his players could focus on mistakes they had made.
A debate is taking place in the Chamber of Deputies ahead of a vote of confidence in the caretaker government of Jiří Rusnok. The cabinet was installed by President Miloš Zeman in the face of opposition from the former coalition government, which said it could deliver enough votes to win a majority. The parties that were previously in opposition have said they will back the caretaker cabinet, though most commentators are predicting defeat for Prime Minister Rusnok in Wednesday’s vote.
Speaking ahead of the confidence vote, President Miloš Zeman said that if MPs didn’t approve the interim cabinet it could remain in place for some time. Mr. Zeman told the lower house that he would not charge a new prime minister with forming a government as long as an investigation centred on a former aide to the previous prime minister was ongoing; the arrest of Jana Nagyová on charges of abetting bribery and abuse of office helped bring down the last government, headed by Petr Necaš. The prosecutor in the case says it could take several weeks for the investigation to be completed. Under the constitution, there is no time limit under which the president would have to task a second prime minister with forming a cabinet.
In the wake of Mr. Zeman’s speech, the former coalition’s candidate for prime minister, Miroslava Němcová, said the three-party alliance would have to rethink its position. It had been waiting for a possible chance to form a government, if the president’s second nominee for prime minister failed. However, Mrs. Němcová said on Wednesday that if the situation continued she would not rule out the former coalition parties now helping other parties dissolve Parliament, so bringing about early elections. She also suggested the constitution could be changed to reign in the president’s powers.
The hotly-anticipated trial of MP and former governor of Central Bohemia David Rath has begun at Prague’s Regional Court. Mr. Rath, who has been in custody for more than a year, faces charges of bribe-taking and manipulating public tenders. Outside the court, the one-time prominent Social Democrat handed out copies of a written statement saying he was innocent and would fight to the last. Mr. Rath and 10 other defendants, one of whom is a former MP, could face up to 12 years in jail if found guilty of the alleged corruption.
A 19-year-old Czech man has admitted to murdering his Czech girlfriend, who was 24, in the western Indian state of Goa on Wednesday. The women’s body, which had neck wounds, was discovered in their room at a beachfront hotel. The man at first claimed that the pair had been kidnapped by two attackers and deliberately injured himself to substantiate the story. However, he later confessed to committing the murder himself.
President Miloš Zeman named Pavel Rychetský, Ludvík David and Kateřina Šimáčková to the Constitutional Court in a ceremony at Prague Castle on Wednesday. Justice Rychetský, who was first appointed to the Czech Republic’s highest court in 2003, will continue to serve as its chairman. The other two justices will sit on the court for the first time. With Wednesday’s appointments, the 15-member court is now complete.