Environmental activists have criticized the government for failing to provide guarantees in its policy programme against the lifting of limits imposed on brown coal mining in north Bohemia. Representatives of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth said they were deeply discouraged by the fact that the new centre-left administration had vetoed a proposal by the environment minister, Richard Brabec, to protect villages in the north from the threat of industrial expansion. The mining limits were imposed in the early 1990s and have frequently come under attack from politicians and industry leaders who argue that at a time of growing unemployment jobs should be a top priority.
Justice Minister Helena Válková has launched disciplinary proceedings against the general director of the Czech Prison Service Petr Dohnal which may result in his dismissal, the ctk news agency reports. The minister says Dohnal tried to thwart an audit into the work of the prison service that she ordered by withholding crucial documents. Mr. Dohnal has rejected the accusations, saying that the audit was a pretext to get rid of him.
The wife of President Miloš Zeman, Ivana, is establishing a charity to help abused children. In an interview for Saturday’s Mladá fronta Dnes daily the First Lady said the issue of physically, mentally and sexually abused children had been marginalized despite the fact that it was a growing problem. According to official statistics 28 children died of physical abuse last year alone and 750 suffered sexual abuse. Mrs. Zemanová appealed to the public to be more vigilant with respect to what is going on in their neighborhood and not hesitate to report cases of suspected child abuse.
Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka has defended his decision to make Lubomir Poul head of his office. Mr. Poul served as the head of the Office of the Government under the former centre-right prime minister Petr Nečas who resigned over a corruption scandal and now faces charges of bribery. Mr. Poul himself was briefly detained along with eight other people when the scandal broke but was not charged. Minister Jurečka said he had needed a good and reliable head of office when he took over the agriculture ministry and Mr. Poul was a long-serving and highly professional civil servant.
Several dozen residents from Prague’s Suchdol district, which houses the Palestinian embassy in Prague, turned up for the embassy’s open doors day on Saturday. The embassy organized the event in order to dispel security concerns in the wake of an explosion which killed the Palestinian ambassador to Prague on January 1st of this year. The police later found a number of unlicensed arms on the premises. The local authorities have asked for the embassy to be relocated.
Sculptor Vratislav Karel Novák has died at the age of 71. His characteristic kinetic and light sculptures can be seen in a number of Czech cities as well as in the United States. Novak’s best known work is the Metronome on Letná which was installed in 1991, on the site of a one-time gigantic monument to Stalin which was destroyed in 1962. Novák’s work with metal, reflecting purity and perfection also made him one of the country’s leading jewelers.
Czech hockey star Jaromir Jágr celebrated his 42nd birthday at the Winter Olympics in Sochi on Saturday ahead of a group C game with Switzerland. His team mates sang a Czech rendition of Happy Birthday, gave him a hearty round of applause and handed over a giant chocolate cake made for the occasion by German chefs at the Sochi Olympics.
Pope Francis on Friday received a delegation of fifteen Czech bishops led by Cardinal Dominik Duka. It was their first opportunity to meet with the Pontiff in person. The Holy Father spoke to them about the role of the Catholic Church and urged them to use the material assets they would acquire in the church restitution process prudently, transparently a so as to further the Catholic Church’s spiritual mission. Later on Friday the bishops will also celebrate mass for Czech pilgrims at St. Clement’s Basilica to commemorate the 1145th anniversary of the death of St. Cyril, whose relics are preserved in the church.
Human rights activist Anna Šabatová was elected to the post of Ombudsman in a secret vote of the lower house on Friday. Šabatová who for six years served as deputy to the country’s first Ombudsman Otakar Motejl was the Senate’s nominee for the post. Her only rival for the post Stanislav Křecek was nominated by President Zeman. Anna Šabatová will replace Pavel Varvařovský who resigned in December for family reasons.
A Prague court has banned businessman Ivo Rittig and three others accused of money laundering from leaving the Czech Republic and they had to hand over their passports to the authorities, the ctk news agency reported on Friday. The state attorney did not ask for them to be taken into custody. High State Attorney Lenka Bradacova said the police has questioned a number of witnesses long into the night on Thursday in order to prevent “possible influencing of witnesses” once Rittig and the others were released.