Czech police have found weapons at the Palestinian embassy in Prague, the
Reuters news agency reported quoting a police spokeswoman. The news comes
day after a safe exploded at the mission, killing the Palestinian envoy,
Jamal al-Jamal. The police spokeswoman gave no details about the type or
quantity of the weapons; the news website respect.cz however reported that
sub-machine guns and other illegally-held firearms were discovered which
could arm a ten-member unit.
The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic Jamal al-Jamal, died in hospital on Wednesday after suffering severe injuries in the blast.
In related news, a spokesman for the Palestinian mission in Prague Nabil el-Fahel has denied a statement by the Palestinian foreign minister who said the safe that exploded at the embassy had not been used for more than 20 years. The spokesman said there were two safes at the embassy – the one which exploded had been used frequently for storing cash and various documents; the other safe, which has not been used for decades, was only opened by the Czech police after the explosion. The spokesman also said the safe had not been fitted with any explosive devises. The cause of the explosion is under investigation by the Czech police; its president, Martin Červíček, told reporters there were no indications the blast was a terrorist attack. The Czech Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, has expressed concern over the find of the weapons; its spokeswoman said diplomatic conventions could have been breached, adding that the ministry would demand an explanation from the Palestinian side.
Experts at the Czech Criminological Institute began examining the safe along with an unknown substance that exploded on Wednesday in a new building of the Palestinian embassy in Prague, killing the ambassador. Results of the analyses should be ready within days, the head of the institute said. An autopsy of the late ambassador’s body is also scheduled for Thursday while investigators continue questioning witnesses of the explosion. The late ambassador’s body will be transported to Palestinian territory next week, the embassy said.
The Czech judiciary breached the fundamental rights of former prominent Social Democrat David Rath by prolonging his pre-trial custody, the country’s Constitutional Court has ruled. Mr Rath, who served as governor of Central Bohemia and MP, was taken into custody in May 2012 on charges of manipulating public tenders. He was released last November. The Constitutional Court said Mr Rath’s rights had been breached when courts ignored arguments he stated in repeated petitions demanding he be released. The trial against Mr Rath and his associates is ongoing; if convicted, the former politician faces 12 years in prison.
The Czech state welfare payment system has collapsed after the software provider, the firm Fujistsu Technology Solutions, shut it down. The company won a contract on running the system two years ago but the Czech anti-monopoly regulator last year cancelled the tender over breach of rules. The ministry has returned to a payment system it previously used but will have to feed in all data from the Fujistsu software. The ministry has set up an emergency team to deal with the situation; some labour offices are likely to limit their opening hours as a result.
The deficit of the Czech state budget last year reached 80.9 billion crowns, or just over 4 billion US dollars, Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said on Thursday. The target deficit was projected at 100 billion. The decrease was owed to improved collection of VAT as well as EU funds, according to the outgoing prime minister. Last year’s budget deficit was the lowest since 2008; this year, the budget projects a gap of 112 billion crowns.
The outgoing Czech interim government on Thursday approved the sale of 28 redundant L-159 combat planes to the US company Draken International, Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek told reporters. The deal is expected to fetch between 435 and 516 million crowns depending on the technical state of the aircraft. 24 of the planes should be operational while the additional four will be used for spare parts. The US firm Draken International will reportedly use the Czech-made planes in training programmes for US military pilots. Several Czech governments have been trying to sell the redundant aircraft ever since it became obvious that the Czech Air Force would only need a third of the 72 planes it acquired in 1997.
The outgoing Czech government on Thursday postponed a decision on prolonging a lease of Gripen fighter jets for the Czech Air Force, the Czech defence minister said. The decision will be made by the new cabinet in the coming months. The government was planning to lease 14 aircraft until the year 2027 for an annual fee of some 69 million US dollars. The Czech Republic first leased the Swedish-made fighter jets in 2005.
The average price of mobile calls in the Czech Republic dropped nearly 20 percent last year to 1.78 crowns, or 9 US cents per minute, according to figures released by the Czech telecommunications regulator. The decrease is ascribed to the introduction of unlimited tariffs by the three major Czech mobile phone operators, as well as to the arrival of virtual operators. Over the last five years, the average mobile call cost was cut by more than a half; in 2005, the average price per minute was 4.65 crowns.
The 2007 world slalom champion Šárka Strachová, née Záhrobrská, has been chosen to be the Czech Republic’s flag bearer at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. It has been an eventful year for the popular Czech skier who following a serious health scare successfully recovered from brain surgery to remove a benign tumour, married her coach and is now competing under her new name.