Friday, April 13, 2012

News 4.13.2012

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

News Friday, April 13th, 2012

By: Jan Velinger

* A Prague district court has found the de facto head of the Public
Affairs party Vit Barta guilty of bribery.

* In related news, the politician confirmed he will give up his post as
head of the party's deputies' club and leave Public Affairs.

* Judge Jan Sott, who handed-down the guilty verdicts, called on the
police in his ruling to further investigate former top Public Affairs
member Kristyna Koci's role.

* The top leadership of the party has been meeting to assess the
situation in the wake of the rulings.

* The Prague Writers' Festival 2012 kicks off in the Czech capital on

Court finds Vit Barta and fellow MP guilty

A Prague district court found de facto head of the Public Affairs party
Vit Barta guilty of bribery, handing him an 18-month suspended sentence
on Friday. Fellow MP and former Public Affairs member Jaroslav Skarka
was found guilty of fraud and received a sentence of three years in
prison as well as a 10-year ban as an MP. The court ruled Jaroslav
Skarka had intentionally accepted a loan of 170,000 crowns from Mr
Barta in order to try and discredit him. On Thursday, Vit Barta - who
was accused of giving fellow party members hefty bribes in the form of
interest-free loans in order to increase his influence - said he would
leave high politics if convicted. Friday's court ruling can still be

Barta to leave Public Affairs

In related news, fellow politicians - including the prime minister -
made clear that both Mr Barta and Jaroslav Skarka should give up their
mandates in the Chamber of Deputies. Following Friday's ruling, the de
facto head of Public Affairs confirmed that he would resign as head of
Public Affairs' deputies' club and would give up his party membership.
He remained silent, however, on giving up his post as an MP. Whether Mr
Skarka will give up his post in the Chamber of Deputies also remains
unclear: the defendant told reporters after the ruling that he would
appeal, so decision no is expected yet. The head of the lower house,
Miroslava Nemcova, meanwhile, confirmed on Friday she was planning to
put forward proposed changes which would broaden the criteria for the
dissolution of parliamentary mandates.

Judge calls on police to look further into Koci's role in Barta case

Judge Jan Sott, who handed-down the guilty verdicts, called on the
police in his ruling to look further into former top Public Affairs
member Kristyna Koci's role in the affair - on the grounds she may have
committed fraud as well as provided false testimony. In the judge's
view, idnes reported on Friday, some steps taken by Jaroslav Skarka and
Kristyna Koci could be tantamount to intentional false accusation, a
felony that carries a sentence between two and eight years in prison;
Koci could also face charges for fraud. The anti-corruption unit police
spokesman, Jaroslav Ibehej, has confirmed that the police will look
into the matter.

Public Affairs leadership assesses developments

The top leadership of the Public Affairs party has been meeting in the
wake of Friday's court ruling, with some in the party acknowledging Mr
Barta's decision to leave the party as correct but others saying he
should also give up his mandate in the lower house, news website idnes
said. Others, such as past deputy chairman Tomas Jarolim, expressed the
hope he would stay on as an MP. Mr Jarolim criticised the court
decision, saying in his view, that Mr Barta was being punished simply
for trying to help fellow politicians. Until now, Barta was considered
the de facto head of the Public Affairs party: questions remain about
its direction not least after Prague branch leaders last week called on
chairman Radek John to resign.

Opposition party slams continuation of government

In connection with Friday's ruling, the opposition Social Democrats
called on Prime Minister Petr Necas to end the centre-right coalition
with Public Affairs. Speaking from the party's Prague headquarters,
Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka reiterated longstanding
criticism of the current government while fellow party member Jiri
Dienstbier slammed Public Affairs as being "undemocratic". Deputy of
the lower house, and prominent party figure Lubomir Zaoralek suggested
Public Affairs had no place either in government or in the lower house.
Criticism by the Leftist party is not likely to get much traction
within the coalition, though, which recently renewed its pledge to
press ahead with key reforms, following an unsuccessful attempt by
Public Affairs to set a greater agenda within the government.

Police: 10 people charged over ProMoPro

Police have revealed that not five but a total of ten people have been
charged in the ProMoPro affair, referring to a case of suspected
embezzlement which took place during the Czech EU presidency in 2009.
According to police, the suspect deal was overpriced by at least 388
million crowns. Three of the 10 suspects charged were civil servants,
police anti-corruption unit spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej said. The case
could have political implications as the ProMoPro deal was overseen by
then-EU affairs minister, and current Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra,
of the Civic Democrats, who in the past faced pressure to resign over
the scandal.

Court rules display of banned party flag not a crime

A regional court ruled on Friday that three people who displayed a flag
of the banned far-right Workers' Party at a public demonstration in
October 2010 committed no crime in light of the fact they may not have
known the extremist party was dissolved earlier in the year, CTK
reports. The Supreme Administrative Court banned the party after
concluding that its programme, ideas and symbols contained elements of
xenophobia, homophobia and a racist subtext. The three far-right
supporters, Lucie Slegrova, David Kundla and Petr Soblahovsky, carried
the party��s flag at demonstrations in Most and Litvinov, in northern
Bohemia. Judge Pavel Plch said the three suspects commonly used the
symbols of the Workers�� Party as they were its members. An expert on
extremism said the party��s symbol, a red cogwheel and black letters,
made clear references to Nazi symbols.

Prague Writers' Festival 2012 kicks off Saturday

The Prague Writers' Festival 2012 kicks off in the Czech capital on
Saturday. Among the guests of the 22nd edition of the international
literature festival are the British screenwriter and novelist Hanif
Kureishi, American poet Jerome Rothenberg and Turkish writer and
psychologist Gunduz Vassaf. The festival's opening gala, where the
Spiros Vergos Prize for Freedom of Expression will be awarded takes
place on Sunday. On the program are film screenings, discussion panels,
literary readings as well as jazz and poetry performances. The festival
runs for five days, through April 18.

Hanzal, Havlat, Voracek heroic in overtime in NHL playoffs

Several Czech hockey players have gotten off to an excellent start in
the Stanley Cup playoffs, which began in the NHL. Martin Hanzal, who
plays for the Phoenix Coyotes, redirected a shot to earn the overtime
winner in Game 1 against Chicago; 3:2 was the final score. Jakub
Voracek also got an overtime winner for Philadelphia, who came back
from 3:0 against Pittsburgh; 4:3 was the score. And, Martin Havlat got
the winner in double-overtime for the San Jose Sharks against St.
Louis; 3:2 was the final score.

Football: defending champions face last place Zizkov

Czech football league champions Viktoria Plzen will have an opportunity
on Sunday to get within striking distance of retaining their title, if
they can defeat last/place Zizkov and other results go their way. The
third-place team currently is four points behind leaders Sparta, and
three behind Liberec. At the weekend, Sparta will face Teplice, in 7th
spot, while Liberec will take on Ostrava, who are second-to-last.
Viktoria Plzen had a highly respected run after winning the Czech
league - qualifying for the first time for the Champions League and the
Europa League after failing to advance from the group.


The coming days bring overcast and rainy weather. Daytime highs should
range between 10 and 14 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today
Co-producer Gail Whitmore discusses Prague production of The Vagina

This Saturday will see two bilingual performances in Prague of Eve
Ensler's The Vagina Monologues a play that has empowered women
worldwide, tackling not only issues of sexuality but also rape and
abuse. The 'Monologues', unlike almost any other work, have inspired an
entire activist movement. Ahead of the Prague performance, Radio Prague
talked to co-producer Gail Whitmore.
Czech MPs Barta, Skarka sentenced in bribery case

A Prague court on Friday delivered a verdict in one of the most
high-profile cases in recent years. The court found the unofficial
leader of the coalition Public Affairs party guilty of bribery, and
fellow MP and former Public Affairs chair of fraud. The case also
highlighted the shady practices within the Public Affairs party which
has been behind a series of government crises.
Business News 13.4.2012

In Business News this week: the government approves a far-reaching
fiscal consolidation plan to reduce the state budget deficit, a drop in
deliveries of Russian crude oil to the Czech Republic triggers
speculation of a plan to up the price and Skoda Auto posts record sales.

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