Members of the country’s Communist Party have distanced themselves from
highly-controversial statements made by one of its own members, MP Marta
Semelová, related to an infamous show trial in the Stalinist 1950s that
democratic politician Milada Horáková found guilty of high treason and
sentenced to death. A guest on a Czech TV interview programme, Semelová
went so far as to suggest that Mrs Horáková’s confession need not have
been coerced by the former regime.
Senior members of the Communist Party, including deputy chairman Jiří Dolejš, have since reacted, saying they did not share their colleague’s opinion. Mr Dolejš made clear that the opposite was true: that during what was one of the darkest periods in Czechoslovak history, suspects could be made to confess to anything, daily Lidové noviny reports. A member of a local NGO is considering pressing charges against Marta Semelová over her statements; a number of centre-right politicians have expressed support, saying the matter should be settled in court.
President Miloš Zeman has said he would welcome a state visit by the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov and would be happy to set a new date for it. The controversial Uzbek leader, was due to visit Prague this week, but requested that the state visit be postponed after Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and other cabinet members refused to meet with him. Mr Karimov, who has been in power since 1991, has been criticized for widespread human rights abuse in his country. President Zeman said that while he did not approve of human rights violations, the visit would have provided the opportunity to sign business deals worth 15 billion crowns.
Former environment minister Martin Bursík was elected chairman of LES (meaning ‘forest’ in Czech and an acronym for the Liberal Ecological Party) a new party founded last autumn focussing on environmental issues. Mr Bursík faced no challengers and received backing from all 74 delegates present. Mr Bursík headed the Green Party from 2005-2009, and was part of the former centre-right government led by Mirek Topolánek. The new party has attracted a number of well-known figures, among them pop lyricist and businessman Michal Horáček, a co-author of the party’s programme, and documentary filmmaker Olga Sommerová, elected one of the party’s deputy chairs.
For almost half of Czechs the EU represents the freedom to travel, study, and work, the results of a new Eurobarometer poll suggest. The numbers released by the European Commission on Monday at the same time showed that Czechs were more critical of the European Union than the European average. Fifty-five percent said they considered themselves EU citizens, placing 22nd in the 28-member union. According to the poll, Czechs posted higher than the EU average when it came to trust in European institutions: 45 percent expressed trust in the European Parliament (compared to the EU average of 39) and 42 percent the European Commission (compared to the European average of 32 percent).
Prague Mayor Tomáš Hudeček has made clear Prague could see a memorial to late president Vaclav Havel introduced during the first half of the year. A similar memorial, designed by architect and friend to the late Mr Havel, Bořek Šípek, was unveiled at the weekend in Barcelona. Other memorial sites have also been unveiled in Washington and Dublin. The head of Prague’s Václav Havel Library, Marta Smolíková, said suitable locations needed to be centrally-located but also to provide an opportunity for discussion and meeting. According to the director, Prague’s Kampa was a possible location for such a site.
Jaroslav Krejči, a respected sociologist, historian and economist and professor emeritus at Lancaster University, died on Sunday at the age of 98. The news was confirmed by Hana Katrňáková of Masaryk University in Brno. Krejči, whose father was infamously premier of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia during WW II, was a member of the anti-Nazi resistance. After the war, in Stalinist Czechoslovakia, he was found guilty of treason and received a 10-year sentence. Mr Krejči was released under an amnesty in 1960 and, together with his wife, left Czechoslovakia for Great Britain in 1968. In the 1970s he was named professor at Lancaster University, where he focussed on the macrosociological interpretation of history and civilisation.
The respected Czech choreographer and dancer Richard Hes died on Monday at the age of 50. Mr Hes, the founder of the famous dance company UNO in the 1980s, had been suffering from pancreatic cancer, which doctors uncovered last year. The UNO dance company was unrivalled in the former Czechoslovakia and continued to see success after the fall of communism; the company worked with top performers on the Czech pop scene including Jiří Korn, Helena Vondráčková and Lucie Bílá. In the 1990s the dance company performed in musicals in the Czech Republic including Dracula and West Side Story.
The police are searching for a motorist who managed to elude officers during a chase outside Prague on Monday, the spokesman for the force Tomáš Hulan has revealed. The driver was stopped by police at the northeast edge of the capital shortly after 1 PM. Instead of heeding the warning, he sped off in an oncoming lane, at points up to 200 kilometres per hour, the police said. The motorist then drove onto the R10 in the direction of Mladá Boleslav, managing to lose the police in pursuit. A police helicopter found the suspect vehicle abandoned near a forest two kiometres on. Police, complete with search dogs, were sent out but without success.
Organisers have confirmed that legendary American singer and musician Patti Smith will headline this year’s Trutnoff Open Air Festival in the Czech Republic. Trutnoff (the spelling changed this year) has a 30 year-long tradition in the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia. Organisers made the announcement ahead of a related event on Monday at Prague’s Archa Theatre, celebrating renowned British bluesman John Mayall’s 80 birthday.
The Czech Republic clinched its fifth medal at the Winter Olympic Games on Monday through Gabriela Soukalová, who won silver in the biathlon women’s 12.5 kilometre mass start. Soukalová finished with a time of 35:45.8, some twenty seconds behind Belarusian Darya Domracheva. Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff was third. Prior to Monday’s event, Soukalová twice finished just outside the medals at this year’s Winter Games.