Former ODS treasurer not guilty of tax evasion
The former treasurer of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Libor Novak, has been found not guilty of tax evasion in connection with the party's 1997 funding scandal. Mr Novak was charged after signing tax returns containing donations to the party which had been entered under false names. A court in Prague ruled that Mr Novak's signature on the party's tax returns was insufficient evidence of guilt. The party covered up a number of donations from a millionaire businessman who was later granted a tender to privatise a large steelworks. The ensuing scandal led to a split in Vaclav Klaus's senior coalition Civic Democrats and the collapse of his centre-right government in November 1997.
The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, has said the European Union's first eastern expansion could take place before his mandate expires in 2005 and that the Czech Republic could be among the first new members. The Czech Republic and five other countries -- Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus joined membership talks in March 1998 and are pressing to join the Union on January 1, 2003. Six other countries joined them in membership talks earlier this year. The Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, told reporters at a joint press conference with Mr Prodi in Brussels that he hoped the Czech Republic would join in time for Czech voters to vote in the next European Parliament elections in 2004.
A group of Belgian Jews have briefly occupied the site of a former Jewish burial ground in the centre of Prague, in protest against plans by the Czech insurance company Ceska Pojistovna to use the site for a new office complex. They left the site after several hours, watched by police. The burial ground, dating from medieval times, was discovered by builders digging foundations for the office block. Construction has been opposed by Jewish groups throughout the world, who say the site is sacred and cannot be disturbed. The Czech Jewish community, however, has negotiated a compromise with the insurance company and the Czech Ministry of Culture.
Doctors treating the Czech President, Vaclav Havel, say he's recovering satisfactorily from surgery for a hernia earlier this week. They said there was no recurrence of the breathing problems experienced by the president earlier in the week, and they were now considering whether to move Mr Havel out of post-operative intensive care. However Mr Havel's doctors have warned that his chronically weak respiratory system would remain at risk for a number of days. The 63-year-old former dissident was a life-long chain smoker before undergoing surgery for lung cancer in 1996, and has suffered several health scares since the operation.
The leader of the far-right National Alliance, Vladimir Skoupy, has been charged with a number of racially-motivated offences following remarks at a series of rallies in Prague. The National Alliance, a far-right civic association with a strong skinhead following, was recently outlawed by the outgoing Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich. The organisation say they are being victimised, and describe Mr Skoupy as a prisoner of conscience.
Germany has said it will not raise any compensation claims with the Czech Republic that would relate to German property seized after the Second World War. Germany's Deputy Foreign Minister Ludger Volmer told the Bundestag on Wednesday that it was impossible to launch legal proceedings against the Czech Republic in what he described as an atmosphere of friendly dialogue with Prague. Mr Volmer was reacting to statements by the Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, whose regional government has often defended the interests of Sudeten Germans - Czechoslovakia's large pre-war German ethnic community who were expelled en masse after the war.
And finally Friday's weather forecast. It will be a mostly clear day tomorrow, with temperatures reaching up to 28 degrees Celsius and dropping to lows of 13 degrees at night.
I'm Rob Cameron, and that's the news.
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