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Anar Mammadli wins Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

Azerbaijani civil society activist Anar Mammadli is the winner of the 2014 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. Mammadli, has actively defended the right to free elections and is the founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre in Azerbaijan. He was arrested in December 2013 on charges of tax evasion and illegal business and in the spring of this year was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison. Mammadli’s father, who is to accept the prize in his name, said the honour would give his son and other political prisoners in the country even greater moral strength to pursue their convictions. The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charter 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond.

Czech nominee for EC commissioner moves to dispel concerns regarding a possible conflict of interests

The Czech Republic’s nominee for EU commissioner Věra Jourová who was assigned the portfolio of justice, consumer policy and gender equality has moved to dispel concerns regarding a possible conflict of interests in the post. In response to written questions from MEPs Ms. Jourová stressed her dedication to independent decision-making and said she would not be influenced by any government or individual in working for the best interests of EU citizens. Doubts have been voiced in connection with Ms. Jourová’s current close working relationship with the Czech finance minister and influential Czech businessman Andrej Babiš. Ms. Jourová faces the traditional grilling before the respective EC commission on Wednesday.

Hospital heads protest against “manipulated” audits

The heads of hospitals who have been fined hundreds of millions of crowns for alleged improper use of EU funds between 2008 and 20013 have protested against what they call manipulated, selective audits by the Finance Ministry. Many of the hospitals are refusing to pay the fines on the grounds that previous audits failed to uncover any irregularities. The Finance Ministry, which ordered the audits, says they are merely fulfilling EU directives. Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček says the collective accusations of hospital heads are serious and has asked Finance Minister Andrej Babiš to look into the matter.

PM says government aims to further boost growth

The Czech government is seeking to speed up economic growth and create new jobs in 2015, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said at Monday’s meeting of the Association of Industry and Transport in Brno. He said the government was in the process of finalizing an action plan to support these goals which involved expanding the infrastructure and constructing new flats and schools. The prime minister likewise emphasized the role of economic diplomacy in boosting the growth of the export-oriented Czech economy. This year’s economic growth is expected to reach 2.6 percent, by far exceeding the most optimistic forecasts.

Ostrava branch of bootleg mafia in court over methanol scandal

The regional court in Zlín is hearing the case of seven suspects implicated in the bootleg methanol scandal that killed close to 40 people in 2012-2013 and left dozens more with severe health problems. Three of the seven suspects of the so-called Ostrava branch of the bootleg mafia could face life sentences. So far ten people have been convicted in the case, with two men who mixed the spirits, containing lethal amounts of methanol, getting life sentences. The others got between ten and twenty years for putting the public health at risk. Many of those who suffered methanol poisoning either went blind or have since developed serious health problems.

Christian Democrat leader to join National Security Council

Christian Democratic Party leader Pavel Bělobrádek is to join the ranks of ministers in the country’s National Security Council, the Office of the Government announced on Wednesday. The inclusion of Mr. Bělobrádek comes at the instigation of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on the grounds that the leaders of all three coalition parties should rightly be represented in the council. The National Security Council, which is currently made up of ten government ministers, coordinates steps in the event of a natural disaster or state of emergency. Presently the party is represented in the council by Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka.

Doctors organize awareness campaign about heart disease and stroke prevention

The Czech health authorities have launched a campaign to spread awareness about heart disease and stroke prevention, the number one killers in the Czech Republic. The awareness campaign held on World Heart Day, September 29, includes massive press coverage and information regarding prevention and tents set up in the big cities where passers-by are invited to get their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked for free.

Trabants to pass through Prague marking anniversary of transit of East German refugees

A procession of Trabant cars is set to pass through Prague on Monday afternoon, marking the 25th anniversary of the passage of thousands of East German refugees through the then West German Embassy in the city. From September 30, 1989 many East Germans abandoned their Trabants near the embassy in the Malá Strana district as they sought asylum. Around 4,000 reached the West in this way. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who was West German foreign minister at the time, and around 150 of the then refugees will visit Prague on Tuesday.

Paper consumption still growing

Czechs consume on average 130 kilograms of paper a year, which is just under the EU average, according to figures released by company Activa. In the past 25 years the amount of paper used in the country has tripled. The biggest consumers are public institutions, where every third document printed out is shredded or recycled within a matter of hours. One reason for this is that reading a text printed on paper is still considered more effective than reading a text from a computer screen, Activa says. The company sells 7,500 tons of paper a year, which amounts to 1.5 trillion sheets.

Study: Czech seniors spend more time chatting on mobiles than teens

Czech seniors spend more time chatting on their mobile telephones than the country’s teenagers, according to a study carried by the website Tarifomat. It found that while the average Czech aged 13 to 18 spent 80 minutes a month speaking on their mobiles, old aged pensioners spoke for 110 minutes on average. While the elderly tend to make calls or send SMSes, teens are more likely to communicate via social networks with some 87-percent owning phones with internet access.