Czech political parties received around 500 million crowns in state payments last year, according to figures released Wednesday by the Ministry of Finance. Regular payments of around 488 million were topped up by 42 million for the European Parliament elections held in May. The Social Democrats were the biggest beneficiaries of payments overall with 150 million crowns entering the coffers, followed by the Communist Party of Czech and Moravia with around 89 million, Civic Democrats with around 68 million, ANO with around 59 million, TOP09 with around 50 million and Christian Democrats with around 46 million. Parties winning more than 3 percent of the overall vote are eligible for state payments. In 2013, payments reached almost 1.0 billion due to elections to the lower house of parliament that year.
Wednesday marked the 85th anniversary of automatic traffic lights in Prague. The lights were first introduced on one of the roads intersecting Wenceslas Square and the innovation was not without controversy; pedestrians complained that it kept them waiting too long. There are now 640 traffic lights in the capital, the number almost doubling since 1989. Intelligent traffic lights which react to traffic flows should be installed across the capital by 2022.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has stepped into the case of two Czech children who have been held in care by Norwegian authorities with access by their mother restricted. Sobotka called for his Norwegian counterpart to ensure that details of the case are thoroughly investigated taking account of the interests of the children and their natural parents. The two brothers were born in Norway of Czech parents and taken into care after suspicions of abuse were raised at their school. Access to them by their natural mother, Eva Michaláková, has been limited ahead of a decision on whether they should be adopted.
A Czech lawyer has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for embezzling from his clients. Marián Št’astný was sentenced by a court in Olomouc after it heard how he embezzled 84 million crowns in funds that had been deposited with him for safekeeping. An original court sentence of five years dating from 2012 was increased after a series of new cases came to light. Št’astný was also barred for 10 years from his profession. He has said he will appeal the sentence with his defense lawyer saying the missing money was more the result of disorganization rather than deliberate embezzlement.
A proposal to force supermarkets and other shops to close on certain state holidays has won the broad support of the coalition government parties. Backing for the move which stems from the upper house of parliament, the Senate, was agreed at a meeting of leading government figures on Tuesday. Up till now the move has been supported by the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats but opposed by the ANO party. The proposal would close shops on seven holidays including Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Easter Monday.
A Czech court has asked the United States for guarantees over the treatment of three suspected terrorist collaborators who are subject to US extradition proceedings. The lead judge at Prague’s Municipal court said that assurances had been sought that the three would not be tortured, subject to unhuman treatment, or subject to solitary confinement. The three were caught trying to sell arms for cocaine by undercover US agents purporting to be members of the Colombian FARC group. The final round of negotiations took place in Prague last April where the three were detained by police. They have been in Czech custody ever since. Two of the men come from the Ivory Coast with the third Lebanese with Ukrainian citizenship.
A legal battle over whether the current Minister of Culture, Daniel Herman, was wrongly dismissed as the head of the state Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (ÚSTR) deepened on Wednesday. Prague’s Municipal Court overturned an earlier ruling that Herman was wrongly dismissed with the case now returning to the lower court. Herman was dismissed by the institute’s board in April 2013 on the grounds that they were dissatisfied with his work. He became a Christian Democrat member of parliament and later minister following elections in October 2013. The institute stores the files of the former Communist secret police and carries out historical analysis of the Nazi occupation and communist regime in former Czechoslovakia.
Czech members of parliament, civil servants, government ministers, and judges have been shortchanged in their pay packets to the tune of several thousand crowns a month according to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs had used the wrong figures to calculate average wages on which the state salaries were based. Czech papers reported Wednesday that members of parliament had lost out on around 5,000 crowns a month and the president around 13,000 crowns. Papers said they should be able to reclaim their past losses.
Czech players Tomáš Berdych, Karolína Plíšková and Lucie Hradecká have reached the third round of the Australian Open. World number seven Berdych became the first player to reach round three of the Grand Slam competition after a 7-6 6-2 6-2 defeat of Juergen Melzer of Austria on Wednesday. Plíšková, who recently made the world top 20 for the first time, beat France’s Oceane Dodin 7-5 5-7 6-4, while Hradecká overcame Polona Hercog of Slovenia 4-6 6-3 6-2. Czechs Klára Koukalová and Kateřina Siniaková exited the competition.
A Russian citizen accused of attempting to hijack a plane which was forced to make an emergency landing in Prague has been extradited to the Czech Republic from the UK. Evgeny Dogaev is now in custody in the Czech capital over the attempted hijacking of a flight from Moscow to Geneva in 2006. Mr. Dogaev fled the Czech Republic while on bail after the incident, which reportedly occurred when he was inebriated. If found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in prison.