Wednesday, January 23, 2013

News 1.23.2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

By: Masha Volynsky

* The politicians Vit Barta and Jaroslav Skarka have been acquitted of
all charges in a joint bribery case by a Prague circuit court.

* The government has approved a draft amendment that would strip
incarcerated lawmakers of their salaries and benefits.

* The Prague Municipal Court has filed a challenge to the presidential
amnesty with the Constitutional Court.

* An annual dog sledding race Sedivackuv long has taken off in the
Orlicke mountains.

* A smog alert has been issued in two regions, with the whole country
registering dust particle concentration twice the permitted limit.

Prague Circuit Court confirms acquittal of Barta and Skarka

The Prague 5 Circuit Court has acquitted the former Transport Ministrer
Vit Barta and former Public Affairs Party MP Jaroslav Skarka of all
charges in a bribery case that the court first ruled on in April 2012.
The circuit judge Jan Sott thus confirmed a ruling of the Prague
Municipal Court from November. Mr Barta, who is also the former head of
the Public Affairs Party deputies club, was accused of bribing his
fellow party members Kristyna Koci and Jaroslav Skarka to gain
influence. Because Mr Skarka had spent part of the money he received
from Mr Barta before reporting it, he was also accused of accepting a
bribe. Last April, Judge Sott handed down a suspended 18-month sentence
to Mr Barta and a three-year jail sentence for Mr Skarka. But in
November, the municipal court accepted the appeals of both defendants,
reversing the previous ruling. After confirming the city's ruling on
Wednesday, Mr Sott said that his hands were tied by the higher court's
decision, and that the whole case has become political. The State
Attorney's office will appeal the case with the Municipal Court.

Government approves not paying lawmakers in jail

The government has approved a draft amendment that would strip
lawmakers who are incarcerated or in custody pending trial of their
government salaries and benefits. The proposal by the leading
government party, the Civic Democrats, is based on the premise that
senators or MPs cannot fulfill their mandate from jail. The opposition
Social Democrats believe that the Constitutional Court would strike
down the law if were to pass through Parliament. The only MP that has
been sentenced to jail time so far this term is the former Civic
Democrat Roman Pekarek. The Social Democrat David Rath is awaiting
trial on corruption charges.

Prague Municipal Court considers amnesty unconstitutional

The Prague Municipal Court judge has submitted a petition to the
Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of the whole of
the amnesty that was issued by President Vaclav Klaus on 1 January. The
petition deems the entire amnesty as unconstitutional mainly on the
basis that it was not discussed by all the members of the government.
The amnesty was signed by the president and countersigned by the prime
minister. Apparently, the only other member of the government who knew
about the amnesty before it was announced was the Justice Minister
Pavel Blazek. The Municipal Court asked the Constitutional Court to
either strike the amnesty down in its entirety or, as an alternative
solution, to strike down a provision that halted some long running
criminal cases.

Havlova endorses Schwarzenberg

The wife of the late Vaclav Havel, Dagmar Havlova, endorsed
presidential candidate Karel Schwarzenberg on Wednesday. The foreign
minister was President Havel's chancellor for roughly two years in the
1990s. A number of public figures and artists have expressed support
for Mr Schwarzenberg in the past week. His opponent Milos Zeman
received backing, for example, from popular singer Helena Vondrackova
and filmmaker Filip Renc.

Zeman would not meet Dalai Lama if elected president

Milos Zeman says he would not meet the Dalai Lama if he were elected
Czech president in a vote that takes place on Friday and Saturday. In a
debate with his opponent Karel Schwarzenberg held by the think tank
European Values on Tuesday, Mr. Zeman said he would only meet the
Tibetan spiritual leader if he himself were a religious leader, or if
the Dalai Lama was a big investor. For his part, Mr. Schwarzenberg said
his rival's position was an acceptance of Chinese propaganda. While the
late Vaclav Havel repeatedly met the Tibetan spiritual leader, his
successor as president, Vaclav Klaus, has consistently refused to meet
him since he was prime minister in the 1990s.

School principal shoots himself

A principal of a school in the town of Bor near Tachov in the Plzen
region has shot himself, the iDnes news website reported on Wednesday
afternoon. According to the police spokesperson it was most likely a
suicide, since the thirty-five-year-old man allegedly left a letter.
The school where he was from had made it into the headlines last year,
when one of its teachers and a former regional head of the Civic
Democratic Party Vladimir Dub was given a four-year suspended sentence
for having sexual relations with an underage student.

Football Association's Disciplinary Committee chairman quits post

The chairman of the disciplinary committee of Czech Football
Association Jiri Golda has stepped down on Wednesday in protest against
the FA's decision to suspend the investigation of referee bribing. The
association has decided to let the police investigate the allegations.
FA's chairman Miroslav Pelta who suggested the move said that the
police are better prepared for dealing with corruption cases.

Ice Age topped Czech charts last year

Last year the most watch film in theatres in the Czech Republic was not
a local production - it was Ice Age 4. The family friendly cartoon drew
in just over 670 thousand viewers in the movie theatres. The Czech film
You Kiss Like the Devil came in second with around 501 thousand
viewers. The next few spots down on the list also belonged to foreign
films. The year before, the top spot was taken by Muzi v nadeji, or Men
in Hope, that was seen by over 850 000 moviegoers. Nonetheless, 2012
saw 400 thousand more people go to the movies in the Czech Republic
than in the previous year.

Dog sledding competition takes off in Orlicke mountains

The annual dog sledding race Sedivackuv long has begun in Orlicke
mountains in the northeast of the country. Around one hundred mushers
with some 700 dogs set out on a 245-kilometer long track that they will
have to complete in snow and freezing temperatures by Saturday. In the
highest parts of the Orlicke mountains there was around 60 centimeters
of snow, temperatures during the day are somewhere around -10 degrees
Celsius. Participants are travelling on different vessels, including
cross-country skis and bikes, and with a different number of dogs.

Smog situation worsens around the country

The average daily concentration of dust particles in the air exceeded
the permitted limit of 50 micrograms per square meter in all regions of
the country on Wednesday. In more of the measuring stations the daily
average is around twice the permitted amount. Meteorologists have
issued a smog alert in the Moravia-Silesian region on Monday, and in
the Usti nad Labem region on Wednesday. The regional administrations
have ask residents to limit car use as much as possible. People with
chronic lung or heart problems, young children and seniors are being
asked to refrain from strenuous physical activity outdoors.


It will be overcast with daytime highs between -6 and -2 degrees
Celsius. There may be light snow throughout the day.

Articles posted on today
If elected, how would Milos Zeman or Karel Schwarzenberg influence the
Czech economy?

The Czech president is to a great extent a ceremonial figurehead with
limited executive powers. But his informal influence can go a long way
in shaping the government's policies. In a couple of days, Czech voters
will choose between Milos Zeman and Karel Schwarzenberg for the next
head of state. But, from the economic point of view, how would a
President Zeman differ from a President Schwarzenberg?
Prague court calls on Constitutional Court to throw out entire
presidential amnesty

The Municipal Court in Prague says the entire amnesty announced by
President Vaclav Klaus on New Year's Day contravenes the Czech
constitution - because it had not been previously discussed by the
government. The prime minister says the move could open a whole can of
worms: If the Constitutional Court agrees, the validity of previous
amnesties could also come into question.
Czech FA suspends investigation of alleged corruption in Plzen game

The Czech Football Association has suspended an investigation into a
dispute that began four months ago, when Sparta Prague accused Viktoria
Plzen, at present its chief rival, of having bribed referees to
influence a game. On Wednesday, the FA decided to wait for the results
of a police investigation into the case before it takes a position. It
has also said that it will no longer carry out its own inquiries into
any such cases and will refer them to the police. I spoke to a reporter
from the daily Sport, Pavel Kalous, about the latest development in the

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