Prime Minister Jan Fisher has demanded an apology from transport unions leader Jaromír Dušek over an interview in which he said that Czech Railways was run by a clique of homosexuals. In an interview for Saturday’s Lidové Noviny, Dušek alleged that homosexuals had a tight grip on decision-making and had people both in the cabinet and the office of the government. The interview provoked an angry reaction from Prime Minister Jan Fischer who described Mr. Dušek’s views as primitive and small-minded. He accused the trade union leader of homophobia and intolerance and said that if he failed to apologize he would not be considered a future partner for negotiation.
Miloš Zeman has been elected chairman of the newly established Citizens’ Rights Party. His election, at the party’s weekend conference, comes as no surprise since the party was established around the former Social Democrat prime minister as an alternative for dissatisfied left-wing voters. Mr. Zeman, who put the Social Democrats on the Czech political map, served as prime minister between 1998 and 2002, retiring a year later after he lost a bid for the presidency to the current head of state Vaclav Klaus. He was increasingly critical of the Social Democrats in later years and officially left the party in 2007. Some of his former allies have left the Social Democrats to join his Citizens’ Rights Party. The newly elected chairman is expected to set the course and mastermind the party’s election strategy in the upcoming general elections.
Czechs are marking the 160th anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia’s co-founder and first president T.G. Masaryk. On Saturday a crowd of several hundred people attended a commemorative ceremony at his graveside in Lany cemetery and later in the day a bronze equestrian statue of the country’s first president was unveiled outside the T.G. Masaryk Museum in Lany. Masaryk’s birthplace Hodonin, in south Moravia, is planning a whole day of events to celebrate the anniversary on Sunday. Earlier this week an exhibition dedicated to Masaryk’s life and work opened at Prague Castle.
Six films are in the running for the 17th annual Czech Lion Awards due to be announced on Saturday evening. Among the nominees selected by the Czech film and Television Academy are Three seasons in Hell directed by Tomas Mašín, Protector directed by Marek Najbrt and Jan Hřebejk’s Kawasaki’s Rose. The film academy has already selected actress Jana Brejchová for the prize given for lifelong-contribution to Czech cinematography. The Czech equivalent of the Oscars will take place at Prague’s Lucerna ballroom.
A night of heavy snow resulted in a pile up involving thirty cars on the R1 motorway near the town of Mladá Boleslav early on Saturday, in which six people were injured. Ten to fifteen centimeters of fresh snow fell around the Czech Republic overnight with more heavy snow lowering visibility in the course of the day. The police report a heightened number of accidents in all regions. A Polish mother driving two children crashed on an icy road near Jihlava late on Friday. One of the children was killed on impact, the mother and surviving child are both in critical condition in hospital. The police have warned drivers to slow down and exercise caution.
Environment Minister Jan Dusík says that a coordinated effort is needed to improve the quality of the air in the heavily industrialized city of Ostrava and its surroundings. The minister, who visited the region in February, has drafted a long-term strategy for improvement based on cooperation between the ministries of environment, transport, industry and local development. The government is to debate the proposal on Monday.
People living in Ostrava and nearby towns and villages are frequently exposed to a high concentration of harmful substances in the air far exceeding permitted levels. Studies show that the inhabitants of this region are more prone to asthma and allergies than the rest of the population.
The far-right Workers Social Justice Party has said it will make a request for international observers to be present at the upcoming general elections. The party, boosted by members of the former Workers’ party, banned for spreading racism and orchestrating violence in a landmark court ruling in February, is planning to run candidates and says it fears the elections may not be fair and that votes for the far-right will be secretly discarded. The Interior Ministry which was successful in its bid to get the far-right Workers Party outlawed, says it is watching the Workers Social Justice Party carefully and will not hesitate to take similar action if it breaches the law.
A Prague court has served exceptionally high two-to-three year sentences to a gang of highly organized Romanian nationals who pick-pocketed in the vicinity of Prague Castle. The gang all came from the same village in Romania and operated successfully in Prague for several years before the police had enough evidence to file charges. Their victims were mainly unsuspecting tourists. The police presented a vast amount of evidence against them in court, including phone conversations where they spoke openly about their activities and undercover policemen who had been posted around Prague Castle.
The Moravian town of Karviná is taking unprecedented action against noise pollution after receiving numerous complaints from the town’s inhabitants. The town’s council has approved a set of regulations according to which discos, pubs and restaurants located in the city centre or in the close vicinity of housing estates will have to keep down noise levels after 10pm. The new regulations will come into force as of March 17, and more officers will be out on the streets to enforce them. Repeat offenders could be fined up to 200,000 crowns.
A twenty-five-year old driver died early on Saturday morning when his car went into a skid on an icy road that sent it flying into a lake by the roadside. His chances of survival diminished when the ice cracked under the weight of the car and it was submerged by the icy water. Firemen and emergency crews found the young man still strapped in his seat.
The weekend is expected to be partly cloudy to overcast with snow in places and day temperatures between 0 and minus 4 degrees Celsius.