In the News 3.12.09

Hussein's plan to attack RFE in Prague, no Czech chicken in the Philippines and much more

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TERRORIST ATTACK IN PRAGUE. Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein planned a terrorist attack on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty at a time when the radio broadcaster had its headquarters downtown Prague.

Czech counter-intelligence service BIS followed Iraqi DGI intelligence service agents as early as in 1999, reports the news website

Saddam Hussein is believed to have ordered the attack to silence radio broadcasting to Iraq by the Radio Free Europe, which is funded by the US government.

According to BIS spokesperson Jan Šubert, Hussein’s secret agents had planned a machine gun and rocket propelled grenade attack on the RFE building.


FBI INVESTIGATION IN THE CZECH LANDS. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has started to investigate the privatization of one of the major Czech banks, Česká spořitelna.

Two former Austrian bankers have decided to take legal action against the Austrian Erste Bank that won the Česká spořitelna privatization tender in 2000.

The bankers – Hans Leitner and Peter Andahazy – are accusing the Erste Bank of channeling bribes to central and eastern European politicians and officials when purchasing state stakes in banks in the region.

They also claim that the same people that were involved in the Erste Bank’s corruption activities were involved in the Gripen corruption case. There were shady bank transfers and cash flow going through the Erste Bank connected to the Gripen purchase, the bankers alleged.

Leitner and Andahazy were laid off by Erste earlier this year.

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The Erste Bank dismisses all the accusations, marking them as “lies and revenge” for being fired. They are now preparing to sue the ex-bankers for libel.


EXPRESS DIPLOMAS FOR FRIENDS. Former justice minister and now dean of the beleaguered Plzeň law faculty Jiří Pospíšil will have his friend Roman Jurečko’s enrollment reviewed.

The issue of express diplomas and buying academic degrees by Czech high-profile figures has lately shaken up the Czech academic community.

Jurečko and Pospíšil are long-standing friends having spent at least three vacations together in Tuscany, Italy. It was in Tuscany where ODS leader and former PM Mirek Topolánek was famously photographed in the company of Czech powerful businessmen and lobbyists. Jurečko and Pospíšil distanced themselves from the Tuscany scandal.


THE STORY OF NATÁLKA. A 2-year-old girl who almost burnt to death during an attack on her family in north Moravia eight months ago has been released from the Ostrava hospital.
It seems like a miracle that she survived, as burn injuries covering 80% of the body are in most cases fatal, the doctors said.

Natálka underwent a number of surgeries. She was under the permanent care of doctors from the anesthesiology and resuscitation unit of the Ostrava teaching hospital.

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Doctors treated the girl’s skin with special Integra burn treatment. Integra was first used worldwide in 2000, and doctors in Ostrava began using the method in 2003.

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On 18 April, a group of attackers threw three petrol-filled bottles into Natálie’s house, causing a strong fire. Beside the girl, her parents suffered serious injuries. Four men, all of them far-right extremists, have been charged with the arson attack.

Meanwhile, the doctors who took care of Natálka were awarded the Gipsy Spirit award, which has been established by human rights minister Michael Kocáb.


SWINE FLU EPIDEMICS. Hygiene officials and doctors are saying there are about 100,000 cases of swine flu. A swine flu epidemic has been declared in several cities and districts. The number of confirmed swine flu deaths in the country has risen to eleven.


TOUGHEN EU IMMIGRATION POLICY. Speaking at EU-member states interior ministers meeting in Brussels, Czech minister Martin Pecina said the EU migration policy should be tougher and should not grant the same rights to migrants as the EU citizens have.

Pecina warned that such a benevolent system would resemble Canada’s system and would cause many problems in the future. Canada has re-imposed visa restrictions to the Czechs in July this year following an unprecedented wave of Czech asylum seekers. Czech government has criticized Canada’s migration policy, blaming the government for the high numbers of asylum seekers from Eastern Europe and Mexico.


THAT SABRE AGAIN? A year in prison for stealing something that looked like an 18 century sabre? An American tourist inebriated broke off the sabre from one of the Charles Bridge statues. He was detained a few minutes later and now faces a possibility of being charged of misdemeanor. If so, the sentence may be as high as one year in jail.

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According to historians the sabre used to be stolen frequently and therefore was replaced with a replica.


NO CZECH CHICKEN IN THE PHILIPPINES. The Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) has temporarily banned the entry of birds and poultry, including their products, from Czech Republic in a bid to keep the country safe from avian influenza or the bird flu virus.

The DA ordered the agency’s quarantine officers and inspectors to stop and confiscate all shipments of live birds, poultry, and poultry products into the country originating from Japan and the Czech Republic.

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