Thursday, September 20, 2012

News 9.20.2012

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

News Thursday, September 20th, 2012

By: Christian Falvey

* The domestic ban on hard alcohol should be lifted on September 26.

* The European Parliament is seeking a discussion on the post-WWII
Benes decrees in response to a Hungarian petition.

* The first ever trial of terrorist suspects in the Czech Republic has
begun in Prague.

* The government has moved to ban the export of hard alcohol due to the
on-going outbreak of methanol poisonings.

Alcohol exports to be halted

The government has asked the Health Ministry to halt the export of
alcohol products from the Czech Republic due to the on-going outbreak
of methanol poisonings. The move, which affects spirits produced and
bottled in the Czech Republic, has come in response to threats from the
EU on Wednesday to either prohibit exports or face a ban on alcohol
imports from the union. Health Minister Leos Heger and Finance Minister
Miroslav Kalousek said they understood the EU's cause for concern, as
the poisonings could not be seen as a local affair on a collective
market. Methanol poisoning has so far claimed the lives of 23 people in
various parts of the Czech Republic. Another three people were
hospitalised with signs of poisoning in recent days.

Hard alcohol ban to be lifted on September 26

Meanwhile, the Czech government intends to lift the temporary ban on
hard alcohol on September 26. A special meeting of the ministries of
health, agriculture, trade and finance on Wednesday night approved new
measures to allow the distribution of newly produced spirits and
release of the bottles that were seized last Friday. The primary
solution is the printing of new, more modern duty stamps on bottles of
alcohol and safety certification for the products. The ministries have
been ordered to submit an analysis of the activities of state
authorities, inspections and the police in fighting black market
alcohol sales in the Czech Republic.

European Spirits Organisation criticises stamp plan

The European Spirits Organisation has complained about the order to
re-issue duty stamps and called on the government to end the
prohibition. The current system of duty stamps, they say, does not
impede counterfeiting or the black market, as the stamps are easy to
falsify, are often reused and their absence on bottles overlooked. The
government imposed the ban on beverages with an alcohol content of more
than 20% on September 14. The prohibition is reportedly costing the
government 25 million crowns a day in lost tax revenues.

European Parliament to discuss Benes decrees

The European Parliament will open a discussion on the so-called "Benes
decrees", which resulted in the expulsion of the Czechoslovak German
and Hungarian populations and the seizure of their property after WWII.
The discussion will be based on a Hungarian petition against the 2007
decision of the Slovak National Council declaring that the decrees are
immutable. The parliament has asked Bratislava to send delegates to
explain the circumstances around the declaration, which some Hungarian
and other MEPs have called discriminatory. The Czech parliament issued
a similar declaration in 2002.

First terrorist suspects in the Czech Republic on trial

The first ever trial of terrorist suspects in the Czech Republic has
begun in Prague. Four Dagestanis, two Bulgarians and one citizen of
Moldova are accused of counterfeiting documents with the intent of
aiding terrorist activities from 2008 to 2010. According to the State
Attorney Petr Bos, the defendants falsified dozens of documents for
Dagestani terrorists who were staying in Germany. Four of the seven
allegedly knew that the documents would end up in the hands of
terrorists. Most of the defendants refused to testify on Wednesday. One
man admitted his involvement, but denied that he was part of an
organized group, stating that he was simply a middleman. All the
defendants denied links to terrorists in the Russian Republic of
Dagestan. The hearings will continue on Thursday and Friday.

Roman Smetana to serve out sentence for defacing political posters

An Olomouc bus driver who was controversially imprisoned for drawing on
political posters will have to serve the rest of his sentence, having
been denied a presidential pardon. President Klaus said via a spokesman
that he did not see a reason for a pardon not based on humanitarian
grounds. Roman Smetana became a symbol for various opposition groups in
2011, when he refused to serve 100 hours of community service for
ridiculing political figures by defacing their campaign posters. His
sentence was thus changed to 100 days in prison of which he served one
month, before the Justice Minister filed a compliant in his favour. The
Supreme Court rejected that complaint, and Mr Smetana will thus have to
complete the remaining 67 days of his sentence.

Computer gamers petition for release of Czech "spies" in Greece

The computer gaming community is petitioning online for the release of
two programmers who are currently in prison in Greece on suspicion of
espionage. The men were apparently arrested for filming a military
installation on the island of Limnos, where they say they were
gathering research for a game while on holiday. The situation has been
complicated by the fact that Greek judicial workers are currently on
strike and may remain so for another month, so the programmers' case
has been postponed indefinitely.

Poll gives left over 52% preference

A new poll by the CVVM agency suggests a strong lead for the left-wing
Social Democratic and Communist parties. According to the survey, the
Social Democrats would win parliamentary elections handily with 31.5%
of the vote. The Communist Party took second place in the poll with 21,
followed by the senior governing party, the Civic Democrats, with
20.5%. The governing TOP 09 party and the Christian DEmcorats would
also win seats in the lower house, with 8.5 and 6%, respectively.
Fifty-seven percent of legal voters said they would participate in

Last suspect apprehended in machete attack case

The Czech Police have caught the last of five men suspected of a
machete attack on a bar in North Bohemia last year. The suspect was
arrested in England and transferred to the Czech Republic. The
prosecution says that two of the Roma men were thrown out of a pub in
Novy Bor for being insulting. They later returned with three more men
and attacked the patrons with machetes. Three people were injured. If
convicted on charges of attempted murder and disorderly conduct they
face between 12 and 20 years' imprisonment..

Hockey: Jagr plays first game in domestic league

Hockey legend Jaromir Jagr has played his first game in eight years in
the Czech domestic league. Jagr - who is newly signed with the Dallas
Stars - received the go-ahead only at the 'last minute' from NHL
Commissioner Gary Bettman, news website idnes reported. He and other
players sought permission to play elsewhere in light of the current NHL
lockout. Jagr is playing for his home town club of Kladno; on Tuesday
the team lost 3-2 against Slavia at a game held at Prague's O2 Arena.
Jagr admitted exhaustion after the match but made clear he was glad to
be playing for the Czech club.


The coming days should be sunny to party cloudy with daytime
temperatures of 13 to 17o Celsius.

Articles posted on today
Hated and admired, Brno's Orloj lays a claim to fame

It was meant to be the pride of Brno - the town's own astronomical
clock to rival Prague's famous Orloj and attract tourists to the
Moravian metropolis. Located on the city's Freedom Square the shiny
black six-metre-tall, phallus-shaped clock has attracted praise and
insults in equal measure since its unveiling two years ago. As Brno
City Hall hoped, it has become the talk of the town but in a slightly
different way than expected.
Czech government plans to ease liquor ban

Less than a week after sales of hard liquor in the Czech Republic were
banned in response to the ongoing methanol crisis, the government has
announced plans to ease the partial prohibition. Newly produced liquor,
tested for the presence of methanol, should be made available within
some two weeks' time. The Czech authorities are also facing criticism
from the European Commission which says they should ban exports of
Czech spirits to protect consumers in other EU countries.
We're surviving...for now, says manager of 'Prohibition' themed
cocktail bar

The Czech authorities continue efforts to restart sales of hard
alcohol, with plans to ease the controversial ban on spirits introduced
in the wake of the methanol scandal. Lifting the ban won't come soon
enough for the nation's bar and restaurant businesses, among them the
Black Angel's Cocktail Bar, hidden away in the basement of Prague's U
Prince Hotel. When it opened two years ago it was styled as a
Prohibition-style bar, offering the decor, atmosphere and authentic
cocktails of 1920s America. Ironically, the bar is now struggling with
very real prohibition, as Managing Director Pavel Sima explained.

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