A regional court in the East Bohemian town of Hradec Kralove ruled on Tuesday that the state must return a Renaissance-era castle to its original owner. The decision ends a 12-year legal battle between the state and the Colloredo-Mansfeld family over the rights to the 440-year-old Opocno castle. According to Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld first the Nazis and later the communists seized the castle from her father. The current government's restitution programme allows property owners to reclaim land and buildings taken over by the former communist regime after the Second World War. But the government had rejected Ms Colloredo-Mansfeld's claim on the grounds that the castle and thousands of hectares nearby were validly seized by the state under the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of ethnic Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia after WWII and allowed for the confiscation of their property. Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Culture Minister Pavel Dostal warned that it could result in a wave of restitution claims that could bring the Benes decrees into question.
The House of Deputies has elected five more members of the Czech TV and Radio Council, bringing the total number of elected members since April to eleven. The governing coalition voted to dissolve the TV and Radio Council last month, holding it responsible for the Czech Republic's lost arbitration with the Bermuda based media company CME on the grounds that the state had failed to protect its investment in private TV NOVA. The lost arbitration cost the Czech Republic over 10 billion Czech crowns. Eight of the new council members elected so far are candidates of the coalition government while two were nominated by the Communists and one by the Civic Democrats. The lower house still needs to elect two more members.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed a bill submitted by parliament for the first time since his inauguration in March. Petr Hajek from the presidential office said on Tuesday that Mr Klaus refused to sign the bill on zoological gardens because it offered tax benefits to certain zoos. According to Mr Hajek, the bill introduces exceptional tax releases for a selected group of beneficial activities, thereby discriminating against other branches and potentially resulting in tax evasion. Since the law was largely supported by MPs in April, Mr Klaus' veto is expected to be overruled on May 27, when it will be re-discussed in parliament.
Czech experts are to hold important posts during the reconstruction process in Iraq, according to the leader of the Czech team in Baghdad, Janina Hrebickova. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Ms Hrebickova said Czechs would be involved in the reconstruction of oil refineries as well as newly established ministries and other state offices. Some 20 Czechs experts are to work in the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid in Iraq. Ms Hrebickova stressed that the Czech Republic's main priority was to help rebuild Iraq, torn apart by war and years of totalitarian rule, and not obtain contracts for Czech firms.
A man who has been in Prague's Bulovka hospital since Saturday for fear he had contracted the deadly disease SARS was released on Tuesday after tests proved to be negative. The young man was admitted to the hospital as a precautionary measure. Following a trip to China, he broke out with fever but had no other symptoms typical for SARS. Of the 30 people who have been taken to hospital in the Czech Republic with suspected SARS, none have proven to have contracted the disease. More than 500 people have died from the disease around the world and thousands have contracted it world-wide, with the biggest number of cases - over two thousand - surfacing in China.
One man was killed and two people - including a policeman - were injured on Tuesday morning in a shooting incident in the north Bohemian town of Povrly, near Usti nad Labem. Police say the dead man was allegedly a thief who had robbed a local cottage. The policeman and a local man who had reported the theft were shot after apprehending the man. The man was shot dead and the policeman seriously injured.
A cold front in the eastern part of the country on Tuesday night is expected to bring heavy rain and sleet with winds reaching a speed of 70 km/h. Most of Wednesday has been forecast with cloudy skies and occasional showers. Temperatures will reach a maximum of 16 degrees Celsius. Meteorologists have warned the rain forecast for this week could result in further flooding in towns and villages around the country.
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