Monday, February 18, 2013

News 2.18.2013

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

News Monday, February 18th, 2013

By: Daniela Lazarova

* The Social Democrats have filed a constitutional complaint against
the law on church restitutions.

* Police are investigating Sunday's gas explosion in Frenstat pod
Radhostem as a threat to public safety.

* The Bulgarian authorities are looking into the electricity prices
charged by Czech and Austrian power distributors following mass
protests around the country.

* MP Roman Pekarek has started serving a five-year sentence for

* Prime Minister Petr Necas has decorated 18 freedom fighters against

Social Democrats file constitutional complaint against church
restitution law

The Social Democrats have filed a constitutional complaint against the
law on church restitutions. The complaint is based on the argument that
the scope of the restitution, which amounts to 135 billion crowns, is
inflated and churches are allegedly set to receive more than was
confiscated by the communist regime after 1948. Senator Jeronym Tejc,
who filed the complaint in his name on Monday, noted that 7 of the 17
churches and religious groupings who are benefactors under the
restitution law did not even exist before the fall of communism in
1989. The law's critics also warn that the legislation could open the
door to claims for property seized by the state before the communists
took power in 1948. The restitution law, approved by Parliament late
last year, envisages a transfer of land and property to the tune of 75
billion crowns and compensation money for the rest to the tune of 59
billion crowns to be paid by the state over a period of 30 years.

Death toll in Frenstat rises to five

Police are investigating Sunday's gas explosion in Frenstat pod
Radhostem as a threat to public safety. The number of victims has risen
to five, three of them children between the age of 3 and 8. Eleven
people were injured in the explosion that completely demolished a block
of flats. Two of the injured remain in critical condition. Emergency
crews are still sifting through the debris in search of the last
missing person. According to media reports the accident may have been
caused by a man who used gas in cylinders to heat his home after having
his heating cut off over unpaid bills. The man did not get on with his
neighbours and had repeatedly threatened to kill everyone.

CEZ under fire in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian authorities are looking into the electricity prices
charged by Czech and Austrian power distributors following an avalanche
of complaints from the public. Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev said that
once it had the results of an audit the government would make a final
decision on whether there are grounds for revoking their licenses. Tens
of thousands of people took to the streets across the country on Sunday
to protest against what they call excessive electricity prices set by
the Czech power distributor CEZ and the Austrian energy company EVN.
There have even been demands for the country's distribution network to
be nationalized. CEZ claims that the higher electricity bills in
January reflect higher consumption over the Christmas holidays and a
colder-than-usual winter. CEZ recently had its license revoked to
operate Albania's national grid after drawn-out disputes over tariffs
and unpaid bills.

Air-quality in Moravia-Silesia slowly improving

There has been an improvement in the quality of air in parts of Moravia
and Silesia after the regions' biggest polluters were ordered to
scale-down production. The regulatory measures introduced on Sunday
have also placed restrictions on car traffic. The concentration of dust
particles in the air still exceeds permitted levels, but is
significantly lower that at the weekend when pollution in the worst
affected areas was four times higher than norms permit. The authorities
have now lifted the restrictions on producers but a smog alert remains
in place.

MP Pekarek reports to jail

MP Roman Pekarek has started serving a five-year sentence for
corruption. The lower house deputy reported to the Hradec Kralove
jailhouse amidst huge media interest on Monday morning. Mr. Pekarek
made it clear he considers the verdict unfair and is refusing to give
up his mandate until he has exhausted all legal means of fighting his
sentence. He says he plans to petition the Supreme Court to review his
case. Pekarek was found guilty of accepting a one million crown bribe
for selling municipal land to a businessman under price. He is the
first deputy to be sentenced to prison during his term in office. The
case has led MPs to initiate a bill under which convicted deputies
would lose their salary and possibly even be stripped of their mandate
in future.

Former MP Petr Wolf still on the run

Former MP Petr Wolf who was sentenced to 6 years in jail for financial
fraud is still on the run after failing to report to prison late last
year but he is reportedly paying the penalty set by the court. He was
last seen in the vicinity of his home around Christmas and the police
believe he must have fled the Czech Republic. An Interpol warrant has
been issued for his arrest.

Right-wing extremists on trial in Brno

A court case against 18 right-wing extremists opened in Brno on Monday.
Some of the accused are members of neo-Nazi bands such as Devils Guard,
Imperium or Attack. The others assisted in organizing at least 14
concerts in the years 2008 and 2009 at which they distributed the
band's CDs, leaflets, badges and neo-Nazi memorabilia. If convicted of
spreading Nazi ideology members of the group would each face up to
eight years in prison. It is one of the biggest court cases against
neo-Nazis in the country's modern history.

PM hands out "third resistance" freedom fighter awards

Prime Minister Petr Necas on Monday decorated 18 freedom fighters
against communism, members of the so-called "third resistance". Among
them are Josef Cech, who spent 15 years in jail for secretly helping
political prisoners in the Jachymov uranium mine in the hardline 1950s,
Charter 77 signatory and human rights activist Dana Nemcova and protest
singer and songwriter Jaroslav Hutka. Several people were awarded
posthumously. A law on the so-called Third Resistance came into force
in late 2011 opening the way for proper recognition of those who
actively fought the communist regime. Those who are recognized as
having been part of the active opposition are entitled to one-off
payments and top-ups to their pensions.

President-elect promuises to fill constitutional court vacancies with
all possible speed

President-elect Milos Zeman said on Monday that he would do his best to
consolidate the Czech constitutional court by filling its vacancies
with all possible speed. He said he intended to propose four candidates
for constitutional court judges shortly after his inauguration in March
and another four in June. The term of seven judges of the 15-member
court will expire this year. The court lacks three judges even now and
further vacancies would present a serious problem. Moreover the mandate
of the court's chairman Pavel Rychetsky is due to expire in the summer.
Mr. Zeman said he would propose his reappointment to the post.
Candidates for constitutional judges are nominated by the president and
confirmed or rejected by the Senate.

Runaway steamboat may not have been accident

The Prague Steamboat Company is considering filing a criminal complaint
in connection with Sunday's accident on the Vltava River. One of the
company's steamboats, which is currently used for advertising purposes,
came loose from its mooring and was borne downstream crashing into one
of the pillars of Prague's Palacky bridge. The company says this could
not have been an accident since the boat was anchored and moored by
seven steel ropes. Company head Dusan Sahula says the runaway boat's
trajectory suggests someone pushed it away from the embankment.


The coming days should be mostly overcast with day temperatures between
-1 and 3 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today

Sports News 18.2.2013

In Sports News this Monday: Milan Baros, 31, returns to Czech league
and boyhood club Ostrava; Martin Ruzicka sets Extraliga regular season
points record; and over 200,000 attend first Czech-held Biathlon World
Championships held.

Jail terms could cost lawmakers seats and salaries in future

Recent scandals involving members of the Czech lower house have
prompted a response from their colleagues. Lawmakers are now debating
legislation that would strip deputies of their salary and other
benefits if they are sentenced to jail. The lower house also backed an
amendment to the Constitution which would strip convicted MPs of the

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