An unqualified coach-driver who was to blame for an accident in which 19 people were killed and 34 injured has been sentenced to eight years in prison by the district court in Cesky Krumlov, south Bohemia. The court found Pavel Krbec - who had used forged documents to obtain a bus-driving licence - guilty of reckless driving. He was driving at almost 120 kilometres an hour when the bus, full of Czech tourists returning from a skiing holiday in Austria, went off the road and plunged down an embankment. Most of the victims were on the upper deck of the two-level coach and died when the roof sheared off.
President Vaclav Klaus, who is on a four-day working visit to the United States, has held talks with the US vice president, Dick Cheney. During Thursday's meeting Mr Klaus told Mr Cheney that the Czech Republic, like the US, was not a "strong supporter" of the development of common European defence forces. The two men also discussed the situation in Iraq and the latest terrorist attacks. Mr Klaus has met several senior officials in the US, including the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, and the president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn. Before returning to Prague, Mr Klaus was also due to meet members of the Czech community in the US and to visit a monument to the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk.
Meanwhile, the Association of Independent Trade Unions has called on President Klaus to veto parts of a government financial reform package. Officials said on Friday that over 100,000 union members had signed the letter, which demands amendments to legislation designed to combat the Czech Republic's record budget deficit.
A large store of counterfeit cigarettes has been found in Chomutov, near the Czech-German border, police said on Friday. Two Vietnamese citizens and a Czech have been charged in connection with the haul; police said the state would have lost 100,000 crowns in taxes from the sale of the cigarettes, which were fakes passed off as well known brands. Counterfeit boxes for the cigarettes were produced by a printers in Most, police said.
Ski-jumper Jiri Raska was named Czech skier of the century by the Union of Czech Skiers at a ceremony in Prague's Carolinum on Friday, the hundredth anniversary of the organisation's foundation. Mr Raska, who is now 62, won gold and silver medals at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble. The contemporary cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova came second in the poll. During the ceremony Ms Neumannova was belatedly presented with silver and bronze medals she won at last year's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City after a Russian skier who finished in front of her was found to have taken drugs.
Saturday is expected to be partially cloudy though mild, with temperatures of up to 14 degrees Celsius.
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