The Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, has rejected an offer by the minister for human rights and minorities to resign, after discussing the possibility face-to-face late Wednesday. The human rights minister, Michael Kocáb, handed over a letter of resignation after a Czech tabloid published allegations he had been having an affair with his spokeswoman, Lejla Abbas. She has already stepped down from her post. A government spokesman said that the prime minister valued Mr Kocáb’s attempt to deal with the situation fairly, but that he had made clear there was no reason for him to resign at this time.
Michael Kocáb, who was nominated to the cabinet by the Green Party, also served as human rights minister in the previous Czech government.
A rock musician by profession, he headed the government commission in the early 1990s that oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia following the fall of communism.
Police from the country’s national anti-drug centre say they arrested a group of four individuals in February suspected of the illegal manufacture and sale of marijuana and cocaine. Defence Ministry spokeswoman Lucie Kubovičová said that one of the four suspects is a member of the Prague Castle guard. If found guilty, each of the suspects could spend up to ten years in prison; three of the people are Czech nationals, one is from the Netherlands. Police monitored the group over several months, determining it operated in Prague and Central Bohemia. Detectives moved in during an attempted sale of half a kilo of cocaine and three kilos of marijuana in Prague’s Letňany. Drugs seized at the suspects’ homes were estimated as being worth around 1.5 million crowns.
The head of the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolánek has called on Interior Minister Martin Pecina to resign from the county’s caretaker cabinet if he opts to run for the Social Democrats in the upcoming election. The right-wing politician was reacting to apparent confirmation by the Social Democrats’ Petr Hulinský on Thursday, that Mr Pecina would head the candidates list in Prague. Interior Minister Pecina was nominated to the current caretaker government by the Social Democrats, after Mirek Topolánek’s government fell in a vote of no confidence roughly one year ago. Mr Topolánek has charged that if the interior minister runs, all his remaining actions in office will fall under the election campaign.
Reacting to the development on Thursday, Interim Prime Minister Jan Fischer said he was not prepared to recall the minister from his post if he decided to take part in the election but stressed he expected him to be apolitical and neutral while in office, staying outside of the election campaign. He also made clear that such a move on the part of the minister would not strengthen the position of the caretaker government.
Three Czech business tycoons have made this year’s Forbes rich list. Petr Kellner is the richest of the three, according to the US business magazine, with assets valued at 7.6 billion US dollars. The co-owner of investment group PPF is reported to be the 89th wealthiest person in the world. Zdeněk Bakala, who owns the coal mining company OKD, is ranked 828th with 1.2 billion US dollars, while Agrofert owner Andrej Babiš is 937th on the Forbes list with 1 billion.
The Social Democrats have taken down snapshots of opponents at their political rallies that were posted on the party’s website, awaiting a decision by the Office for Personal Data Protection. The party posted the photos, it said earlier, to determine whether protestors appeared at different rallies across the country – an indication they might be professionally organised by a rival political party. In posting the photos, the Social Democrats, however, may have breached individuals’ right to privacy; the chairman of the Office for Private Data Protection, Igor Němec, said that no political party could post such pictures without individuals’ consent. An official decision on the case is expected to be reached by his bureau within a week.
Meanwhile, critics of the Social Democrats have hit back with a Face Book campaign, showing pictures of themselves with their middle finger raised. Last year on several occasions Social Democrat representatives at rallies were pelted with eggs.
The leader of the Social Democratic Party, Jiří Paroubek, announced on Thursday that he and his family will be relocating to the north Bohemian town of Teplice on Friday, where they have a newly-rented apartment. The party leader, an MP for the Ústí region, has until now not lived in the area, but only commuted. Mr Paroubek told journalists on Thursday that his family was looking forward to the move; the Social Democrat is married to Petra Paroubková, his second wife, with whom he has a baby daughter.
An unknown perpetrator brandishing a firearm held up a bank on Prague’s Vinohradská Street on Thursday morning, shortly before ten am. He forced a teller to give him an undisclosed amount of funds before escaping the scene. No one was seriously hurt in the incident but the teller in the hold-up was attended to by emergency services. The perpetrator is believed to be a young man of darker complexion, about one metre 70 in height. During the hold-up, he wore a long black jacket and large sunglasses. According to reports, he spoke Czech poorly.
Two passenger wagons of a “City Elefant” train were damaged by fire on Wednesday evening at a station in the suburbs of the Czech capital. The train was headed from the town of Beroun to Prague, with about 40 passengers aboard. All managed to safely exit the train and no one was hurt in the incident a spokeswoman for Czech Railways confirmed. Fire fighters from nearby units – professional and voluntary – intervened. It is thought that the fire – which caused more than 1 million crowns damage to the vehicle – was caused by a malfunction in the heating system.
The British press has reported that Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech, who plays for Chelsea, could return to the pitch earlier than previously expected – in ten days’ time. The footballer suffered a leg injury in late February in a Champions League game between Chelsea and Inter Milan. Doctors’ assessments suggested Čech would be out for at least a month, but the Guardian has reported the player is recovering qucikly. All the same, it is unlikely the goalkeeper will be able to return in time for the 2nd leg of the Champions League match up against Inter next Tuesday. He could return to the pitch in a Premier league game against Blackburn on March 21.
In the NHL on Wednesday, Czech hockey player Tomáš Fleischmann scored the overtime winner for the Washington capitals over Carolina. The goal came in the 64th minute and the final score was 4:3. The goal was Fleischmann’s 19th so far this season. The player, who was one of the more effective on the national team at the recent Winter Olympics, was benched the last game for Washington; after the match he expressed hope that the goal would help his place on the roster.
In other action, Radim Vrbata scored a penalty shot that helped Phoenix down Vancouver 4:3. The win is Phoenix’s 40th this season, a record the team has matched only once before, in the 2001/2002 season.
It should be partly cloudy with rain or snow at times over the next few days, with temperatures of up to 4 degrees Celsius.