A family friend of former prime minister Stanislav Gross has been sentenced to five years in prison for insurance fraud. The Prague City Court ruled on Tuesday that businesswoman Libuse Barkova had made false property damage claims in 2001 and 2002, which netted her several hundred thousand dollars. Ms Barkova, who has also been investigated for tax evasion, immediately appealed Tuesday's verdict. She first came to national attention in 2003 when her conversations with Interior Minister Gross and a Defence Minister were caught up in a police wiretap, and it was revealed that Ms Barkova owned a building housing a brothel. Stanislav Gross resigned as prime minister this spring in part because of questions about his wife's business dealings with Ms Barkova.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has responded to critics of Saturday's police action to shut down the annual CzechTek rave party in a front page editorial published in the daily Lidove Noviny on Tuesday. In justifying the police action to shut down the techno party, which took place in a field in West Bohemia, Mr Paroubek wrote that the participants were not innocent "dancing children" but rather "people with anarchist proclivities and international links." He said they were known to "provoke massive violent demonstrations, fuelled by alcohol and drugs, against the peaceful society" throughout Europe.
In related news, former president Vaclav Havel, who appeared at a rally on Monday to lend his support to the CzechTek partygoers, has offered to act as a mediator between the government and the rave's organisers. Police announced on Tuesday that 10 people have been charged in relation to Saturday's events, most with assaulting a public official. At least two private citizens have filed complaints against the police. Meanwhile, according to a lightning poll conducted for the daily Mlada fronta Dnes, seven out of ten Czechs believe that the police action to shut down CzechTek was 'too severe'. The Czech police used tear gas, stun grenades, batons and water cannons to disperse the CzechTek crowds, whom the government says were trespassing on private property.
The foreign ministry has released some grim statistics on the number of Czech holidaymakers to have died abroad this year: a record sixty-six Czechs in total. Most died in traffic accidents. There were 13 deaths in neighbouring Slovakia, and 11 in Croatia, where some 800,000 Czechs will spend their summer holiday this year. The first Czech victim of terrorism died last month in an explosion in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el Sheikh.
The English football club Everton are reportedly ready to offer Liverpool £6 million pounds for Czech striker Milan Baros. Aston Villa have already had a £5 million pound offer for Baros rejected, while West Ham confirmed an interest in the Czech Republic international last week. Meanwhile, West Ham have signed on the Czech Under-21 striker Petr Mikolanda, who plays for Viktoria Zizkov in Prague.
The former triple world and Olympic javelin champion Jan Zelezny has revealed he will miss the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki beginning on Saturday. The 39-year-old world record holder says he aggravated a leg injury suffered in competition last week and had no choice but to withdraw.
Overcast skies, scattered showers and temperatures in low 20s (Celsius) is the forecast for the next couple of days.
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