Czech morning news in brief: Top headlines for October 6, 2021

ANO party stands by PM Babiš, MPs' salary freeze approved by Chamber of Deputies, initiative calls for selection of female candidates. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 06.10.2021 09:34:00 (updated on 06.10.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

ANO party stands by beleaguered leader Babiš

The deputy leader of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s ANO party, Jaroslav Faltýnek, has said that the Czech leader did not violate the law and paid all required taxes, contradicting claims made about Babiš’s financial affairs in light of the publication of the Pandora Papers. More than 300 Czechs, including an ex-minister, various local politicians, a banker, real estate and media moguls, arms dealers and others were implicated in an investigation into the use of offshore companies for large-scale financial transactions.

Babiš was one of the most prominent figures accused of suspicious activity, having passed money through three offshore companies to buy luxury properties in the south of France. Jaroslav Faltýnek suggested a 12-year-old transaction had been dragged into the limelight ahead of the Czech elections in an attempt to influence the vote.

Salary freeze for politicians approved by Chamber of Deputies

The lower house of the Czech Parliament has approved a salary freeze for elected officials for the next five years. The bill will now be sent to the Senate for approval. Some 133 deputies out of the 134 present voted for the bill, which will put a stop to the steady rise in MPs’ wages seen over the last 10 years. Last year, politicians’ salaries rose by 10 percent, up to CZK 90,800 a month for MPs, CZK 173,200 for ministers, CZK 243,800 for the prime minister, and CZK 302,700 for the president.

If the Senate does not back the amendment to freeze MPs’ salaries, their wages will increase by a further 6 percent in January. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said it would be “scandalous” for politicians’ wages to rise further. Every major political party in the house backed the wage freeze.

New initiative calls on voters to choose female candidates

A record number of women are running for election to the Czech Parliament this week, and a new initiative called Zakroužkuj ženu (Circle a Woman) now aims to boost female representation in the Chamber of Deputies. The initiative wants to rectify the fact that the Czech Republic still has a lower proportion of female politicians than in many other EU countries. Women make up 52 percent of the Czech population, but only 23 percent of its MPs.

The Zakroužkuj ženu initiative notes the female experiences are often different to male ones, so both male and female perspectives must be represented when major decisions affecting the whole country are to be taken. The organizers argue that if enough people choose to “circle a woman” in the election this weekend, a democratic signal will be sent that Czechs want more women in Parliament.

Czech court upholds 15-year prison sentence for IS fighter

The Prague High Court today upheld a 15-year prison sentence for Vatik Muhammad Yousuf Sammarrai, a fugitive Iraqi national, over his departure from the Czech Republic to fight for the Islamic State (IS). The court thus definitively convicted Sammarrai, 27, of terrorism and participation in a terrorist group. Evidence against Sammarrai included his presence in an IS propaganda video.

His defense lawyer said his client’s condition as a fugitive means the conditions for a conviction have not been met, as his whereabouts are not known, he may be aware of his prosecution, and it is unknown whether he is even still alive. The judge said, however, that Sammarrai’s actions make his desire to escape Czech justice clear. The IS fighter comes from Baghdad and arrived in the Czech Republic to reunite with his father. After marrying a Czech woman, Sammarrai became radicalized and in 2015 left Prague for IS-controlled northern Iraq, via Istanbul.

Czech commander awarded for Afghan rescue mission

Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek (ČSSD) presented a medal to the commander of the KAMBA military police unit for the successful Czech evacuation mission from Afghanistan. Kulhánek also met other soldiers involved in the evacuation mission. Czech Ambassador to Afghanistan Jiří Baloun has also been decorated. For security reasons, the name of the KAMBA unit commander who received a medal has not been announced. The government has also proposed that the commander be decorated by President Miloš Zeman.

The Defense Ministry said that thanks to the commander’s bravery and determination, 140 Afghans were saved within the Czech Republic’s evacuation efforts from Kabul. The commander managed to secure the release of dozens of Afghan helpers and their families after hours of personal talks with Taliban figures during the Czech evacuation mission.

UEFA investigating Sparta Prague over new racism claims

UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings over “potential discriminatory incidents” during Rangers’ 1–0 Europa League defeat to Sparta Prague last week, in which Rangers’ Black player Glen Kamara was roundly booed by a crowd of 10,000 schoolchildren. Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek summoned the British Ambassador to the Czech Republic to discuss the escalating row, as Rangers manager Steven Gerrard called for harsher sanctions against the club.

Amid the heightened tensions, Sparta fans have now been warned that they should “think carefully” about traveling to the return tie in Glasgow on Nov. 25. Interior Minister Jan Hamáček said that he has written to the Scottish authorities to ask that special attention is paid to the safety of Czech citizens in Scotland.

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