The president’s deputy chief of staff Petr Hájek disgraced the Czech Republic with his comments on the death of Osama bin Laden, says Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Mr Schwarzenberg released a statement to the press saying that Mr Hájek’s comments - that the life and death of the terrorist leader was a work of media fiction - insulted an ally and the head of an allied state, brought adverse attention and disgraced the good name of the Czech Republic. Speaking to the Czech Press Agency from a trip to Northern Africa, the foreign minister said he was not responding to diplomatic pressure from the United States for an apology, but was simply “pissed off”. President Klaus eventually distanced himself from the remarks, saying on Wednesday that they had not been thought through. Petr Hájek has frequently suggested that the attacks of September 11, 2001, were orchestrated by the United States itself.
Several thousand people demonstrated against the restriction of marijuana use in Prague on Saturday. An estimated 6,000, mostly young people marched through city centre to a park in Žižkov, dancing and distributing cannabis seeds, to support the legalisation of cannabis for medical and recreational use. Organisers asked the government to respect their rights by decriminalising the drug and its users. The protest is the fourteenth of its kind this year in Prague. Czech law currently allows possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana.
Another demonstration is taking place in Prague on Saturday to protest government reforms. Several hundred people are expected to gather at Jan Palach Square to protest the right-wing coalition’s health, welfare, pension and tax reforms. Organisers say the new laws would worsen the quality of life in the Czech Republic and disrupt social cohesiveness and solidarity. The gathering is supported, amongst others, by the confederation of trade unions, which has threatened strikes, and the national council for disabled persons.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament has passed a bill relaxing the so-called muzzle law, which restricts the publication of information about individuals involved in criminal investigations. The amendment, proposed by the government, would allow the media to publish information from investigations if they believe public interest outweighs the protection of privacy. According to the Ministry of Justice, such cases could include recordings of politicians that suggest they have broken the law. If approved by the Senate and ratified by the president the new exemptions will take effect this year.
Another government-sponsored bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies on Friday enables victims of violent crime to demand compensation for non-property damages. If signed into law, the amendment would allow courts to assess such damages based upon the amount demanded by victims and the evidence they provide. At present, courts may only assess damages based on material damages that can be expressed monetarily, otherwise they must sue for personal damages separately, an option not frequently used.
A government bill allowing foreigners to purchase residential real estate and land in the Czech Republic has been passed by the lower house of Parliament. The prohibition was an exemption that the country demanded upon acceding to the EU and expires this May. Foreign companies based in the Czech Republic and others however have long been availing themselves of legal loopholes and currently own land in the tens of thousands of hectares.
Police are investigating six people in Moravia who they believe are guilty of tax evasion in the amount of 420 million crowns. According to police, the suspects were intentionally evading payment of value added tax on deals in mineral oils used to produce gasoline in 2009. They were arrested after police raids in five cities uncovered large amounts of evidence. If found guilty they face up to ten years’ imprisonment.
The coming days are expected to be clear with daytime temperatures of around 18 degrees Celsius.