Czech officials have expressed concern over the downing of a Russian fighter jet somewhere on the Turkish-Syrian border by Turkish forces early on Tuesday. Speaking on an official visit to China, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the incident showed the need for better communication and coordination among states fighting ISIL in the region. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said the incident should serve as an urgent warning for the international community to get together and agree on a common strategy. Since there is no agreement and no clearly defined enemy individual parties are fighting their own war in their own interests, and the lack of coordination only serves the terrorists, the Czech foreign minister said in a statement published on the ministry’s web page. President Zeman said the shooting down of the Russian fighter jet was a radical measure which would only increase tensions in the region. Turkey claims the jet violated its airspace, while Russia claims to have proof that it never left Syrian territory.
The head of the Block Against Islam Martin Konvička has been charged with inciting hatred toward a group of people based on their religious beliefs. According to his lawyer Klara Samkova, Konvička was charged on the grounds of statements made on Facebook in 2011 and 2014. The Block Against Islam claims the charges are politically motivated.
The Czech police are reported to have arrested four persons wanted for illegal migrant smuggling. They are believed to be part of an international organized gang wanted by the Belgian authorities. All four are Czech nationals who were tasked with finding lorry drivers willing to smuggle migrants across Europe. A Czech court is to rule on their extradition to Belgium.
President Miloš Zeman has said it would be naive to think that that there is no possible link between the wave of Islamic migrants and the threat of terrorism. Speaking at a meeting of the army command on Tuesday, the president said that the danger of terrorism had come closer to the country’s borders and argued that it was impossible to rule out the presence of jihadists in the uncontrolled wave of migrants flowing through Europe. Mr. Zeman praised the army’s participation in foreign missions saying that by fighting terrorists far from home Czech soldiers were helping to keep them away from Czech and European borders.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Tuesday countered the president’s words about migrants and terrorism, stressing the need to distinguish between terrorists who present a global threat and refugees fleeing from war and terror. We need to keep in mind that the security threat comes from terrorists, not from migrants who need our help, Mr. Sobotka told journalists. In recent days the Czech head of government has been at pains to publicly counter some of the president’s views on the migrant issue and strongly criticized his speech to an anti-migrant gathering in Prague on November 17th.
Police are reported to have arrested a number of Prague taxi-drivers suspected of overcharging tourists. According to the news site ihned.cz the police had been monitoring them for some time and had collected enough proof against them to press charges. Although Prague taxi-drivers are notorious for ripping off foreign visitors, this is the first time that the police have taken action against them. The state attorney dealing with the case has confirmed the news, but refused to specify how many drivers may be charged.
Foreign nationals sentenced to more than three years in prison for a premeditated crime or serial offenders will lose their right to residence in the Czech Republic, according to an amendment to the asylum law signed into force by the president. The new law will make it easier for qualified workers to get a residence permit and will enable asylum seekers to find employment six months after filing their request.
The state attorney in the trail against the former governor of Central Bohemia David Rath has revealed that he appealed the verdict according to which Rath was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for corruption. State attorney Petr Jirát says he wants tougher punishment for the former governor. A regional court in Central Bohemia found Rath guilty of accepting bribes and manipulating public tenders linked to funding from the European Union. Rath, who pleaded not guilty, appealed the verdict on the spot.
The Chinese company CEFC is to invest ten million euros into a center of traditional Chinese medicine in the Czech Republic, the head of the Hradec Králové Hospital Roman Prymula told the ctk news agency on Tuesday. Mr. Prymula is part of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s entourage on his six-day business mission to China. The centre should be completed within a year and a half and operate on a 30-strong medical staff, including eight doctors from Shanghai. A small clinic of traditional Chinese medicine is already in operation within the Hradec Králové hospital but due to considerable interest it is unable to meet demand.
The European beaver has been spotted for the first time in Prague in 185 years, a “camera trap” run by the Czech University of Life Sciences has revealed. The head of the research team Aleš Vorel confirmed that a lodge built by the animals housed at least one beaver couple. The team will monitor the animals' activities and movement within the city, he said.
Lights on the traditional Christmas tree on Prague’s Old Town Square will be turned on Saturday, City Hall has revealed, but said the exact time would not be given to avoid large crowds. The decision was taken on Monday after a meeting with the emergency services. Last week, the media reported there would be no traditional ceremony at all following the recent attacks in Paris – something which organisers immediately denied.