Police are investigating a tragedy in the village of Široký Důl, Svitavy: the murder of four siblings. Police and rescue workers were alerted to the scene at noon on Friday: investigators have not revealed details but the daily Právo reported the victims were between the ages of 10 and just two months. Their family had reportedly only just moved to the village. According to available information, the children had cuts and strangulation wounds. The mother, herself cut, reportedly tried to hang herself and is in hospital in critical condition. The police expressed shock over the tragedy, saying it was the worst such incident in recent memory.
Police closed off Prague’s Ikea stores in Zličín and Černý Most on Friday and additional stores in Brno and Ostrava, over a bomb scare. A bomb was reportedly found by a security guard at the company's Zličín outlet, who removed it and carried it to a garbage container after cutting the wires. He then called the police. Bomb experts arrived at the scene to assess the threat level and secure the area. Customers were evacuated from the store but only after it was confirmed the item was functional. The bomb was then dismantled and sent to a lab for investigation.
Following the incident, Prague’s other Ikea store, Černý Most, across the city was also closed as were sites in Brno and Ostrava later on. All sites are being searched by specialists with sniffer dogs. It is not the first time Ikea has been targeted in such an incident: in the past, bombs were also found in Gent, Belgium, Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and the French town of Lomme. Idnes.cz reported that Belgian officials found similarities between the separate incidents; it is not clear yet whether Prague’s is in any way related.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas – as well as a number of other Czech politicians – have come out against a Defence Ministry plan to partially reintroduce compulsory military service – namely in posts the army is having trouble filling. According to public broadcaster Czech TV, the military does not have enough drivers, pilots, mechanics or IT specialists. In a brief interview for Právo, the prime minister indicated different solutions were needed – pointing to Great Britain’s reserve troop system as an example. Other politicians interviewed by the paper, also against the plan, include the deputy chairman of the lower house’s defence committee, Jan Vidím, and Social Democrat shadow defence minister Jan Hamáček. The Czech Republic abolished compulsory military service on December 31st, 2004.
Government MPs passed a package of austerity measures in the lower house on Friday affecting welfare and social benefits. The bill will, for example, curb maternity grants and affect sick leave pay. It is the second time the bill has been passed, as earlier this year the Constitutional Court recognised as valid a complaint put forward by the Social Democrats, who disagreed with the original manner the measures were approved in late 2010.
At the time, the government called a legislative emergency – a process by which Parliament adopts bills in a shortened procedure – to push through the original package. The Constitutional Court ruled its application in this case was unacceptable; however it gave the government until the end of 2011 to pass the bill again. The package will now go to the Senate, dominated by the Social Democrats who are opposed to the reforms.
In related news, government MPs on Friday approved raising the lower VAT rate affecting some goods and services from the previous 10 to 14 percent. The move will raise the prices of medicines, foodstuff, public transport, as well as books, newspapers and concert tickets in 2012, Mladá fronta Dnes reported. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek told the daily that by conservative estimates the lower VAT rate increase would bring in an additional 22 billion crowns. The prime minister, meanwhile, stressed that the increase would not be dramatic but the opposition Social Democrats have said that they will lower the rate if they win the next election, at least regarding food and medicine. Petr Nečas’s centre-right government aims to unify the existing higher and lower VAT rates at 17.5 percent in 2013.
Around 300 people took part in a rally in Varnsdorf, North Bohemia, on Friday protesting against local Roma residents; the municipality has seen a rise in violent crime and tension between the ethnic Roma and non-Roma communities in recent weeks, leading the police to reinforce patrols in the area. Demonstrators attempted to march to a local boarding house, and the crowd grew to 500 hundred, but participants were stopped by riot police. No incidents were reported. Officially the protest was supposed to have been against nuclear waste. The rally was reportedly organized by Lukáš Kohout, who was caught in 2002 pretending to be an aide to former MP and former foreign minister Jan Kavan.
The regional court in České Budějovice sentenced a 35-year-old Czech man to 18 years in prison on Friday for the brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend. The murder took place in January of this year. The defendant stalked and killed the 28-year-old victim at a senior home where she worked. He brutally attacked her with a baseball bat and then set her body on fire in an attempt to hide the evidence. Police arrested the suspect shortly after learning of the crime. The defendant admitted guilt to investigators but tried to blame his actions on anti-depressants.
Czech actress Iva Janžurová and former Czech president and playwright Václav Havel were awarded honorary citizenship of Prague 6 on Friday by the district’s mayor, Marie Kousalíková. At the ceremony Mr Havel was accompanied by his wife Dagmar; it was the former president’s first public appearance in some time. Due to poor health and in order to recover his strength, Mr Havel, who turns 75 in October, has been staying at his cottage. Friday’s ceremony was held at the Břevnov monastery.
A road accident involving two trucks stopped traffic near Brno on the Czech Republic’s D1 highway for more than three hours on Friday: two people were seriously injured and had to be airlifted to hospital. The accident took place near Velký Beranov. The traffic jam that ensued was some seven kilometres long.
World-record holder Barbora Špotáková has come second in the women’s javelin at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. The Czech competitor threw a season-best 71.58 metres to earn silver, edged only by Russia’s Maria Abakumova who took gold with a throw of 71.99. It is reportedly the first time two women have thrown over 71 metres in the same competition. Špotáková, who is coached by men’s javelin legend Jan Železný, called the championship “amazing”; the medal is the first for the Czech team at this year’s competition.
The end of the week will by mostly sunny and warm, with daytime highs of around 24 degrees Celsius.