Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has sent condolences to his Danish counterpart, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and strongly condemned terrorist attacks in Copenhagen on Saturday which left two people dead and five people injured. In a letter, the prime minister described the two deadly incidents, a shooting at a Copenhagen cafe and another near the main synagogue, as an attack on the principles of freedom and democracy. An extensive manhunt was launched in the city after the first shooting, which took place during a free speech debate at the Krudttonden cafe and cultural centre hosted by Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, known for controversial cartoons of Mohammed. The person believed to be behind both shootings was later killed in a shootout with the Danish police.
Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček has said around 30 new community mental health clinics should be created in the Czech Republic over the next two years at the cost of around 10 million crowns each, working with an operational budget of around 450 million crowns annually. The minister commented the situation in the health sector on public broadcaster Czech TV. Each of the centres, he said, would employ 20 staff members, including a full-time and part-time psychiatrist, psychologist, medical and social workers. The project, at least in the beginning, will be financed from European funds. Once community centres are up and running, the minister said, the transformation of large psychiatric hospitals could begin. He stressed that it was of utmost importance, as a result of changes, that no patient in need of treatment ended up on the street.
The Czech Republic has seen a marked jump in the number of people interested in working as interim guardians or foster parents, due to changes in legislation which significantly increased financial benefits. Foster parenting is widely considered a superior option than institutional care. Last year, the Czech Republic paid benefits in 11,300 cases. According to the Czech News Agency, the majority of legal guardians are children's grandparents or other relatives; one-third have no familial connection.
Politician Petr Štepánek is staying on as the head of the Prague branch of the Green Party after a regional conference on the leadership failed to elect any of the challengers. Matěj Stropnický, Jan Trnka and Ondřej Mirovský all vied for the post but came up short. According to news website novinky.cz, Mr Mirovský came closest, getting the backing of 30 out 64 delegates - three less than needed.
Some 600 demonstrators took part in an event in Brno on Saturday protesting against Islam, while not far away around 200 people demonstrated in favour of religious freedom and tolerance. Neither event saw any incidents requiring the police to step in. Organisers of the larger protest said they wanted to stop the spread of Islam in the Czech Republic; protestors carried placards featuring a mosque and minarets inside a ban circle. Populist politicians such as the Dawn movement's Tomio Okamura in recent weeks have stoked anti-Muslim sentiments, suggesting Czechs, for example, should boycott kebab stands.
Justice Minister Helena Válková has told Czech Radio she decided to step down because she did not feel she had support from within the ANO movement. According to the minister, colleagues did not back her work at the ministry and as minister she felt they would favour someone more forceful or direct. Válková tendered her resignation on Tuesday; President Miloš Zeman made clear later in the week he wasn't ready to accept; he aims to meet with the candidate for the post, Robert Pelikán, as well as ANO leader Andrej Babiš, first.
Czech hockey legend Jaromír Jágr turned 43 on Sunday, joining the ranks of only sixteen other players, according to sources, who still played professionally at the same age. The veteran forward told reporters in a recent interview he had no plans to hang up his skates, saying he loved the NHL and wanted to return next season, even without a contract if need be (for a trial period). Jágr currently plays for the New Jersey Devils but still draws interest from other clubs. Devils boss Lou Lamoriello described Jágr as being in "phenomenal condition". The Czech forward has retired from international play but fans are hoping he may reconsider and play at the World Championships in Prague and Ostrava this year. Jágr has two Stanley Cup rings, an Olympic gold medal and two World Championship gold medals.
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