Daily news summary News

01-10-2012

Czech president calls plastic gun attack a “political act”

President Václav Klaus has said in an interview that he considers Friday’s attack against him a “political act” – one that reflected the extremely poor state of Czech society. In an interview for the daily Mladá fronta Dnes on Monday, Mr Klaus said the attack involving a man firing pellets at him from a plastic gun, was not a “regrettable incident” (as described by the prime minister) but the first such attack on a Czech president in history. Rather than a failure of his security detail, the shooting highlighted much deeper issues within society, the president said.

Last Friday an assailant shot pellets at the president seven times during an official visit in Chrastava: video footage, aired around the world, showed the president’s security team oblivious to any danger, failing to react. The assailant successfully departed the scene and was even able to grant interviews to two TV stations before being arrested. The head of the president’s security team has stepped down over the incident.

Airsoft seller: security detail may not even have heard shots

In related news, a Czech seller of airsoft weapons and equipment has suggested that failure by the president’s security team to register pellet shots fired by the assailant last Friday stemmed simply from the fact that the guns are generally hard to hear. Jan Šulc told the Czech news agency the sound emitted by the guns, although audible on tape of the incident, was minimal. Video captured bodyguards completely failed to act against the assailant who fired at close range, hitting the president’s arm. Others, including security expert Andor Šandor, reacted more critically: shown the footage by a private station, Mr Šandor suggested that the security detail should have better read the body language of those in the crowd. He suggested that the behaviour of the shooter was different enough from those around him to have stuck out.

Dates set for direct presidential election

Czechs will go to the polls to elect the country’s next president on January 11th and 12th, 2013. The dates were announced by the speaker of the upper house, Milan Štěch. If no candidate wins an outright majority in the first round, a run-off will take place between the two most successful candidates. The successor to Václav Klaus will be known, at the latest, by the 26th of January.

Presidential candidates will now have five weeks to officially submit their bids by the November 6 deadline. Candidates not nominated by 10 senators or 20 members of the Chamber of Deputies will have had to have collected 50,000 signatures, under the election law. The Interior Ministry will check the candidatures by November 23 to see that they comply with the law. This is the first time in the country’s history that the president will be elected directly by voters. Until now, they were elected in a joint session of both houses of Parliament.

Methanol poisoning claims 27th life

Methanol poisoning has claimed a 27th life in the Czech Republic since the outbreak of poisoning began on September 14. The patient was a 62-year-old man from the Beskydy area. The man had been found poisoned in his home on September 28; he is one of 11 people in his region to have died as a result of having drunk bootleg alcohol.

Hygiene officers conduct checks at restaurants, drinking establishments

Hygiene officers conducted checks of 1,207 establishments – mostly restaurants – at the weekend to see if they were upholding the partial ban on hard liquor following the spate of methanol poisoning in the Czech Republic in September that killed 27 people. Nine remain in hospital from drinking poisoned alcohol; five of those persons were admitted to hospital at the weekend. In all, 76 people were poisoned after consuming bootleg liquor; some of those who survived suffered permanent disability, such as blindness or badly-damaged eyesight.

Health Minister Leoš Heger confirmed on Monday that of the 1,207 establishments checked at the weekend, 20 venues had failed to meet the strict new requirements, lacking, for example, the necessary documentation for specific products sold. Under the partial ban, establishments have up to 60 days to produce certification for alcohol in storage and only hard alcohol produced before 2012 can be legally sold. In the near future, hygiene officers will focus on taking samples from opened bottles at establishments to measure for the presence of dangerous substances.

Alcohol of unknown origin to be treated as dangerous waste

The Czech Environmental Inspectorate has outlined that uncertified alcohol which will have to be destroyed for lack of documentation should be handled as dangerous waste. The inspectorate warned that anyone dumping alcohol without respecting existing legislation could face fines of up to 50 million crowns. Sellers have until the end of November to produce necessary certification or face having to dispose of their supply. It will be possible to destroy bottles of unknown origin, for example, at sites with industrial incinerators focussing on dangerous materials.

Ministry officials detained on accusations of bribery

The anti-corruption police have accused deputy labour and social affairs minister Vladimir Šiška and ministry IT section head Milan Hojer of bribery, the Czech news website tyden.cz reports. The spokesman for the anti-corruption unit, Jaroslav Ibehej, confirmed that both men had been detained on Monday but declined to reveal additional details beyond the case being connected to public procurement. In a press release, the Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek of the TOP 09 party expressed dissatisfaction that the police had refused to give any details, calling procedures taken by the unit “scandalous ten days ahead of the Senate and regional elections”. If charged and found guilty in court the two could face officials detained on Monday could face up to six years in jail.

Some TOP 09 members urge minister to step down or consider step

In connection with Monday’s developments there have been some calls within the TOP 09 party for Mr Drábek to resign. Karola Haasová, heading the candidates’ list in the region of Ústí made clear she thought he should do so.TOP 09 Olomouc chairman Tomáš Chalánek said the minister should at least consider the step.

Court sentences man to eight years for death of children

The district court in Hradec Kralové sentenced a man responsible for the death of two little boys last year to eight years in prison. A previous six-year sentence handed to the man - Jaroslav Novák – was struck down earlier; Monday’s verdict can be appealed. Last year, Novák, an epilepsy sufferer who had been banned from driving, backed his car into and ran over the boys, who were brothers, at a zebra crossing they were on with their grandparents. The defendant apologised repeatedly on Monday. In court in May, he had said he remembered nothing of the incident. He had suggested earlier he had felt a seizure coming on but that was not confirmed by expert witnesses.

More than 5,000 sign Czech AI petition calling for Pussy Riot´s release

On Sunday more than 5,000 people signed the Czech version of the Amnesty International´s petition calling for the release of members of Pussy Riot, the Russian political punk band. Amnesty International revealed the outcome at a meeting it staged in support of the group in front of the Russian embassy in Prague. Some forty people attended the protest. The three members of Pussy Riot were sentenced in August to two years behind bars for a controversial performance in a Moscow church earlier in the year.

Weather

October should get off to a cloudy start around much of the Czech Republic, with temperatures on Monday expected to reach a maximum of 18 degrees Celsius. Forecasters say it will be quite sunny on Tuesday and Wednesday, when temperatures will climb to 21 degrees Celsius.

01-10-2012