Tuesday, March 27, 2012

News 3.27.2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

By: Christian Falvey

* Former Prague mayor Pavel Bem has suspended his membership in the
Civic Democratic Party in the wake of a lobbying and wiretapping

* The committee investigating the leaked wiretaps adjourned after its
chairman objected to one of its members, a former employee of ABL.

* Police President Petr Lessy has called on the Prague police chief to
take personal responsibility for mistakes made in the detention of
Roman Janousek.

* The Public Affairs party is calling for a coalition discussion on
multi-billion crown cuts in the Ministry of Education.

* Kometa Brno, the surprise of this year's Tipsport Extraliga hockey
playoffs, won their opening semi-final match against Plzen on Monday

Bem suspends party membership

Former Prague mayor and MP Pavel Bem has temporarily suspended his
membership in the Civic Democratic Party in the wake of a lobbying
scandal. Mr Bem said he believes the case will be duly investigated
within some six months and that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
Police are investigating recordings of telephone conversations between
Bem and construction tycoon Roman Janousek that suggest that the latter
had excessive influence on city governance as a lobbyist. The party
leadership called on Bem to suspend his party membership on Monday or
risk being expelled. Party chairman and Prime Minister Petr Necas
recommended he also resign from Parliament. The transcripts are being
published by the daily Mlada fronta Dnes, which claims they were made
by the Czech intelligence agency BIS in 2007 and were acquired by the
detective agency ABL some two years later.

Committee on leaks stalls over former ABL member

The parliamentary committee investigating whether the wiretaps were
leaked from Security Information Service, BIS, to the detective agency
ABL adjourned after ten minutes on Tuesday after its chairman objected
to one of its members. Committee chairman Richard Dolejs, a member of
the opposition Social Democratic Party, told reporters afterwards that
he had asked the prime minister to replace Public Affairs member David
Kadner, who was formerly an employee of ABL, or at least bar his
presence from discussions regarding the leak from BIS to ABL. Mr Kadner
himself refused to quit the committee, denying any conflict of interest
and calling the move unconstitutional and undemocratic.

Lessy holds Prague police chief responsible for botched Janousek arrest

In related news, Police President Petr Lessy has called on the head of
the Prague police department, Martin Vondrasek, to take personal
responsibility for mistakes made in the detention of Roman Janousek on
Friday. The lobbyist is suspected of having run down a woman after
denting her car while intoxicated and then avoiding the police, just
days after the wiretapping scandal broke. Mr Lessy said that Janousek
should have been detained on the spot and the state attorney informed;
he should not have been allowed to use his telephone and should not
have been released after making a statement but placed in a cell, if
for no other reason than that he may have tried to escape again, or
influence a witness. Lessy said the officers' mistakes had threatened
the entire course of the criminal proceedings. Janousek was charged
with grievous heavy bodily harm under the influence of an addictive

Public Affairs wants coalition discussion on education cuts

The Public Affairs party is calling for a coalition discussion on
multi-billion crown cuts in the Ministry of Education. After a meeting
of the party's executive council Tuesday morning, deputy party
chairwoman Karolina Peake said that the planned 2.5 billion crown cut
would mean changing the political promises made for the Education
Ministry, which would have to be discussed with their coalition
partners. Public Affairs' Josef Dobes resigned as education minister
last week, citing his disagreement with the cuts. The ministry will
temporarily be run by deputy minister Ladislav Nemec until a new
candidate is selected.

Pitr withdraws Swiss asylum request, will be brought home

Convicted Czech entrepreneur Tomas Pitr, who has been in police custody
in Switzerland since July of 2010, has withdrawn his application for
asylum and will be extradited to the Czech Republic. The Justice
Ministry announced Tuesday that it had received an official statement
from the Swiss authorities on the matter. Pitr��s lawyer recently told
the media that he would return to the Czech Republic because he
believed his right to a fair trial was starting to be respected and he
wanted to be closer to his family. In 2006, a Czech court sentenced
Pitr, one of the richest men in the Czech Republic, to five years in
prison for tax fraud worth 51 million crowns. He failed to report to
prison, however, and has been hiding abroad since mid-2007.

Police launch two major raids

Police from the organised crime unit carried out two major raids on
Tuesday morning in various parts of the country. The first was aimed at
right-wing extremists who they believe were responsible for a recent
arson attack on a block of flats in the western city of As. The second
involved suspected human trafficking. Police would not provide details
but said the raids were extensive and were the result of several months
of detective work.

Klaus lands support to Bulgarian Schengen bid

President Vaclav Klaus threw his weight behind Bulgaria��s bid to enter
the Schengen Area while on a working visit to the country on Tuesday.
The Czech president said the bid was being rejected due to ignorance
about Bulgaria and its being underrated by other EU countries. The
Netherlands in particular has opposed the entry of Bulgaria to the
zone. Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev stressed that his country
meets all Schengen membership conditions and firmly controls its border
with Turkey.

Reconstruction of Zizkov Cargo Station could cost up to eight billion

A discussion on the future of the Zizkov Cargo Station on Tuesday found
that its reconstruction would cost between five and eight billion
crowns. The former railway station has been in limbo for years as
developers, activists and the local government have argued over how
best to use it. Many consider the structure an important technical
monument and would like to see it preserved. Present at the meeting was
Culture Minister Alena Hanakova, who is to decide on whether the site
should be made a monument. The local town hall has decided that an
agreement must be reached on the matter as soon as possible as the
structure is in a worsening state of disrepair.

Hockey: Kometa edge Plzen in semi-final opener

Kometa Brno, the surprise so far of this year's Tipsport Extraliga
hockey playoffs, continued to catch their opponents off guard on
Monday, this time by winning the opener of their semi-final series
against Plzen by a score of 4:3. Kometa managed to turn around a game
they began poorly, at first looking sluggish on their skates and
falling behind by two goals in the opening minutes. Gradually the team
was able to get back into the swing of it, trailing 2:1. Brno completed
the comeback in the 3rd period when the club added two: Jakub Svoboda
scored the winner, getting the puck just under the bar. The teams face
each other again in Game 2 on Tuesday.

Senior citizens call for protests

An association of senior citizens is calling for a series of
demonstrations against the government's planned cuts and their effects
on retirees. The first of the protests is to take place in the second
half of May at Palachovo Namesti in Prague; others are reportedly in
planning. Among other things, the organisations oppose the planned
deceleration of pension growth, which they say would further worsen the
standard of living of retirees in the Czech Republic, which is already
one third less than the European average.


Conditions over the coming days are expected to be mostly sunny, with
daytime highs reaching 20o Celsius.

Articles posted on www.radio.cz today

Embattled former mayor suspends party membership

Former Prague mayor and MP Pavel Bem, of the Civic Democratic Party,
has heeded calls from fellow members to suspend his party membership.
In a written statement issued on Monday evening, Mr Bem confirmed he
would take the step in the wake of the on-going "lobbying scandal" that
has raised serious questions about his tenure.


Czech Mint issues commemorative medal in honor of late president Vaclav

The Czech Mint has just issued a special commemorative medal in honor
of late president Vaclav Havel. The medal, available in gold and
silver, depicts Mr Havel, who was for many a national hero, with a
smile on his face.


Antonin Cermak: from Czech miner to Chicago mayor

You might not recognise the name straight away, but Antonin Josef
Cermak - a miner's son from Kladno, Central Bohemia - is one of the
most famous Czech-Americans to have ever lived. Anton (or Tony) Cermak
became mayor of Chicago at the height of prohibition, overhauled
Democratic Party politics in the city, and was then assassinated in the
most mysterious of surroundings. All quite dramatic for someone who
started his career selling firewood...


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