Former top Social Democrat politician David Rath was found guilty of rigging public contacts and accepting bribes and sentenced to eight and a half years in prison at Prague’s Regional court on Thursday. The former member of parliament, health minister, and head of the Central Bohemian region was not in court to hear the verdict. Police swooped on Rath three years ago at his home on the outskirts of Prague and found him in possession of a wine box stuffed with seven million crowns hidden inside. Apart from that, the prosecution said that he had received around 16 million crowns in pay-offs and was promised 22 million crowns. Rath cut a controversial figure on the Czech political scene, known for his inflammatory and personal verbal attacks on opponents. Rath told Czech Television he would appeal the verdict and described the court process as “exemplary theatre and nothing at all to do with justice.” The prosecution called for a sentence of at least nine years and confiscation of his assets.
In a news conference after the court verdict, David Rath said he did not attend the court because as a doctor he gave priority to treating his patients. He added that the sentence had already been decided weeks previously. Rath added that he was thankful that the death penalty no longer existed because he would have probably got that if it had not been abolished. He said that the judges had ignored the testimony of dozens of witnesses and the evidence presented in what was a fabricated case.
Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has said that European refugee camps in North Africa would be the worst idea the EU could come up with. Mr. Salaheddine Mezouar on a visit to Prague to see counterpart Lubomír Zaorálek on Thursday said such a processing camp for asylum demands would only serve as a focus for tension and incidents. The idea of citing such a camp in North Africa was initially backed by Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Minister of Finance and ANO leader Andrej Babiš. Zaorálek said at this point the main challenge is to bring back some security and stability to Libya, one of the main routes for refugees reaching Europe.
The Lebanese Minister of Interior Nuhad Mashnuq has said the suspected kidnapping of five Czechs in the country is likely linked to mafia activity, drug trafficking, and arms sales. The minister said that scenario stems from initial investigations. A report of his comments was carried by the AFP agency, which quoted the Lebanese national news agency. The minister is the first member of the Lebanese government to have commented on the disappearance of the five Czechs. The search for the missing Czechs was launched Saturday after their hired car was found with the passports and other valuables near the Syrian border. The Czech Foreign Ministry has refused to comment in spite of many details about the men emerging out of Lebanon.
Around 20-50 illegal immigrants are now being dealt with daily by the Czech Foreigners‘ Police, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told the Czech upper house, the Senate, on Thursday. That volume means that capacity at detention facilities will have to be increased because the current capacity is simply not sufficient, the prime minister added. Illegal immigrants are detained to work out where they come from and where they entered the European Union before decisions are taken on whether to allow them to demand asylum in the country, return them to the EU country where they came from or their homeland. Sobotka repeated his opposition to any EU quotas for accepting refugees.
Wednesday’s tragic train accident at a rail crossing in Studenka, Moravia, has claimed a third victim. One of the three people in critical condition in Ostrava’s Teaching Hospital died during the night, a hospital spokesman reported on Thursday. Two people were killed and 18 injured when a high speed Pendolino train travelling at 160 km per hour hit a truck which ignored the red lights and got trapped on the tracks by the falling gates. The Polish truck driver who miraculously escaped injury was questioned by police and charged with endangering life. He could face a jail term of 10 years.
Three people have been killed after a delivery van collided with a lorry near Prunéřov on Thursday morning. All the occupants of the van were killed after it apparently skidded into the opposite lane and struck the lorry, police said. The driver of the lorry was transported to hospital in nearby Ústí nad Labem with serious injuries.
The Czech National Bank’s low crown policy could be prolonged with interventions in the currency markets during 2017, the head of the bank’s currency and statistical section Tomáš Holub said in an interview with the business daily Hospodářské Noviny onn Thursday. The central bank had previously indicated the policy would come to an end in 2016. The bank launched its low crown policy with interventions to prevent the crown strengthening beyond 27 crowns to the euro in November 2013. The move is aimed at boosting economic growth and moving inflation towards the 2.0 percent target.
Jiří Kajínek, regarded as the most famous Czech prisoner after being given a life sentence in 1998 for organising contract killings and one attempted murder, has been refused a retrial. Plzeň’s regional court refused the application on Thursday with the same judge, Tomáš Bouček, who refused two previous applications from 54-year-old Kajínek, handing down the latest ruling. A film about Kajínek, including his numerous escapes from prison, was made in 2010.
Former Czech Constitutional Court judge Ivana Janu is to be the new head of the Office for Protection of Private Data. She was selected for the post by the upper house of Parliament, on the nomination of a group of Christian Democrat senators. Janu will take office in September replacing Igor Nemec who has served two terms in office and was not able to seek re-election. In her address to the Senate Janu stressed the growing importance of the office in defending people´s privacy which she said was threatened by an increasing number various registers serving public institutions and by people’s careless attitude in using social websites.
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