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Posts tagged ‘Central Land of Koruna’

Syrian Kurdish leader detained in Prague on Turkey’s request

February 25, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) — Czech authorities detained a former leader of a Syrian Kurdish political party under an Interpol red notice that was based on Turkey’s request for his arrest, Turkish and Syrian Kurdish officials said Sunday.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Salih Muslim, former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, was “caught.” Speaking in Sanliurfa Sunday, Erdogan said, “Our hope, God willing, is that the Czech Republic will hand him over to Turkey.”

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said Turkey requested Muslim’s detention for extradition after locating him in a Prague hotel. Bozdag called Muslim the “terrorist head.” A Kurdish official close to Muslim, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the former PYD leader was in Prague attending a conference. After a Turkish participant took a photograph of him, Czech police detained the Syrian politician Saturday, following a request by Turkey.

Czech police say that have arrested and placed in detention a 67-year-old foreigner at the request of Turkey’s Interpol. No further details were immediately released by Czech police. Muslim was put on Turkey’s most-wanted list earlier in February with a $1 million reward.

The Turkish justice ministry said Muslim was being tried in absentia for his alleged involvement in a March 2016 car bomb attack on Turkey’s capital, which killed 36 people and injured 125. Turkey considers the PYD a “terrorist group” linked to outlawed Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey’s own borders for more than three decades.

The party is the leading political Kurdish force in northern Syria, and Muslim remains highly influential even after stepping down as co-chair last year. The PYD condemned in a statement Muslim’s detention, saying the move is an “illegal and immoral act by Czech authorities” and calling for his immediate release.

The group also accused Turkey of adopting “dirty methods in chasing personalities that are playing a role in the fight against terrorism,” highlighting Muslim’s major role in mobilizing international opinion in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The United States has been backing the PYD’s armed wing, the People’s Protection Units or YPG, in combating the extremist IS. The alliance has tensed relations between Washington and Ankara, who are NATO allies.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched an incursion into northern Syria, seeking to rout the YPG from the enclave of Afrin. The Kurdish official said the former PYD leader was invited to Prague to take part in a conference held once every six months to discuss issues linked to the Middle East such as the Syrian crisis, Turkey, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The justice ministry said it was submitting an extradition request for Muslim. An extradition request would have to be approved by a Czech court and by the justice minister. Muslim is a Syrian citizen.

Turkey shares a 911-kilometer border with Syria. The YPG controls much of the territory along the border.

Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.


Czech lawmakers lift immunity of PM Babis over fraud claims

January 19, 2018

PRAGUE (AP) — Lawmakers in the lower house of the Czech parliament have agreed to lift the immunity from prosecution for Prime Minister Andrej Babis over alleged fraud involving EU subsidies. Friday’s 111-69 vote allows police to complete their investigation into Babis.

The case involves a farm that received an EU subsidy after its ownership was transferred from a conglomerate of some 250 companies that belonged to Babis to Babis’ family members. The EU farm subsidy was meant for medium and small businesses.

Babis has been charged but denies wrongdoing. Because of the charges, no party has been willing to form a coalition government with Babis after his ANO (YES) centrist movement won October’s parliamentary election.

New Czech minority government fails to win confidence vote

January 16, 2018

PRAGUE (AP) — The new Czech minority government led by populist billionaire Andrej Babis has failed to win a mandatory confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament and has to resign. Tuesday’s loss was expected because the government lacks a majority.

Babis’ ANO (YES) centrist movement won October’s parliamentary elections with 78 seats in the 200-seat house. His government was appointed in December. But none of the eight other parties that holds parliamentary seats has agreed to create a coalition government with ANO because they consider Babis unsuitable to lead the government due to fraud charges he has been facing linked to EU subsidies.

President Milos Zeman, Babis’ ally, said he would ask him to form a government again. Any new government still has to win a parliamentary confidence vote to rule.

Anti-migrant incumbent favored in Czech presidential vote

January 12, 2018

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czechs are electing a new president, and eight candidates are hoping to unseat the incumbent. President Milos Zeman, 73, is seeking another five-year term in the largely ceremonial post and is the favorite to win the election’s first-round vote Friday and Saturday.

Two political newcomers, the former president of the Academy of Sciences, Jiri Drahos, and popular song writer Michal Horacek are considered his major challengers. Others with a chance to advance to the runoff are Mirek Topolanek, an outspoken leader who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, and Pavel Fischer, a former diplomat.

If no candidate achieves a majority, the top two will face each other in a runoff in two weeks. Friday’s vote was hit by a protest. After Zeman entered a polling station in Prague, he was approached by a female Femen activist stripped to the waist who shouted “Zeman, Putin’s slut!” His guards intervened and led the shaken president away. Zeman returned several minutes later to vote and said he was honored to be heckled by a Femen activist.

Zeman was elected to the largely ceremonial post in 2013 during the country’s first direct presidential vote, a victory that returned the former left-leaning prime minister to power. In office, he’s become known for strong anti-migrant rhetoric that won him support from the populist far-right. He has also divided the nation with his pro-Russia stance and his support for closer ties with China.

He was one of the few European leaders to endorse Donald Trump’s bid for the White House. He has flown the European Union flag at Prague Castle but has used every opportunity to attack the 28-nation bloc.

Former Czech PM Topolanek announces presidential candidacy

November 05, 2017

PRAGUE (AP) — Former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has announced he is running for in the presidential election scheduled for January. Topolanek confirmed his candidacy to Czech public television on Sunday. The colorful and outspoken politician is set to say more on Tuesday, the deadline for entering the race.

Topolanek served as prime minister of the Czech Republic during 2006-2009 as the head of the conservative Civic Democratic Party. He was a staunch supporter of a U.S. missile defense plan President Barack Obama ultimately abandoned.

Topolanek often made headlines, such as when he called Obama’s economic recovery plan a “road to hell.” He left politics for business in 2010. Czech President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Russia views and anti-migrant rhetoric, is seeking re-election and currently favored to win.

Populist billionaire’s party wins big in Czech Republic

October 21, 2017

PRAGUE (AP) — The centrist ANO movement led by populist Andrej Babis decisively won the Czech Republic’s parliamentary election Saturday in a vote that shifted the country to the right and paved the way for the euroskeptic billionaire to become its next prime minister.

With all votes counted, the Czech Statistics Office said ANO won in a landslide, capturing 29.6 percent of the vote, or 78 of the 200 seats in the lower house of Parliament. “It’s a huge success,” the 63-year-old Babis told supporters and journalists at his headquarters in Prague.

Babis is the county’s second-richest man, with a media empire including two major newspapers and a popular radio station. Although he was a finance minister in the outgoing government until May, many Czechs see him as a maverick outsider with the business acumen to shake up the system. With slogans claiming he can easily fix the country’s problems, he is, for some, the Czech answer to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Since the leader of the strongest party usually gets to form a new government, Babis could be the country’s next leader despite being linked to several scandals — including being charged by police with fraud linked to European Union subsidies.

The charges will likely make it difficult for Babis to find the coalition partners he needs to build a parliamentary majority. He didn’t immediately say which parties he preferred but has invited all parties that won seats in parliament for talks.

In a blow to the country’s political elite, four of the top five vote-getting parties Saturday had challenged the traditional political mainstream. Some have exploited fears of immigration and Islam and have been attacking the country’s memberships in the EU and NATO.

The opposition conservative Civic Democrats came in a distant second Saturday with 11.3 percent of the vote, or 25 seats. They were the strongest mainstream party. The Social Democrats, the senior party in the outgoing government, captured only 7.3 percent — 15 seats — while the Christian Democrats, part of the ruling coalition, won only 5.8 percent support or 10 seats.

“It’s a voting hurricane,” analyst Michal Klima told the Czech television, referring to the poor results for the mainstream parties. The Pirate Party won seats for the first time, coming in third with 10.8 percent of the vote, while the most radical anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, anti-EU party, the Freedom and Direct Democracy, was in fourth place with 10.6 percent support. The two parties won 22 seats each.

Babis’ centrist movement stormed Czech politics four years ago, finishing a surprising second with an anti-corruption message. Babis has also been critical of the EU and opposes setting a date for when his country would adopt the shared euro currency.

Like most Czech parties, ANO also rejects accepting refugees under the EU’s quota system. But Babis played down his euroskeptic views after his victory. “We’re oriented on Europe,” he said. “We’re not a threat for democracy. I’m ready to fight for our interests in Brussels. We’re a firm part of the European Union. We’re a firm part of NATO.”

Still, some experts saw a strong shift to the right for the Czech Republic if Babis works out a coalition government with Tomio Okamura, head of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, who wants to ban Islam and organize a referendum to exit the EU.

“Should (Babis) join forces with Okamura, the Czech Republic would be facing difficult times,” Klima said. A record nine parties and groupings made it into Parliament. Those included the Communists, who got 7.8 percent of the vote and 15 seats, the pro-EU conservatives with 5.3 percent and seven seats and a group of mayors who won 5.2 percent support and six seats.

Czechs rally against country’s president, finance minister

May 10, 2017

PRAGUE (AP) — Tens of thousands of people rallied on Wednesday in the Czech Republic’s capital and other major cities against President Milos Zeman and Finance Minister Andrej Babis. The protesters gathered at Wenceslas Square in downtown Prague demanded Babis’ firing and Zeman’s resignation in the latest development of the Czech political crisis.

The public demonstrations follow Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka asking the president last week to get rid of the finance minister over his unexplained business dealings, especially charges that he hadn’t properly explained suspicions that he avoided paying taxes.

Babis, one of the richest people in the country, has denied wrongdoing and refused to resign. He owned two major national newspapers, a radio and the Agrofert conglomerate of some 250 companies before he transferred them to a fund earlier this year after a new law limited the business activities of government ministers.

Zeman so far has refused to fire his ally, claiming the government’s three-party ruling coalition first would have to dissolve their coalition agreement. Sobotka’s left-wing Social Democrats are rivals of Babis’ ANO centrist movement in a parliamentary election scheduled for October. ANO is a favorite to win the most seats, paving the way for Babis to become the next prime minister.

Zeman invited the leaders of the coalition parties to discuss the political crisis late Wednesday. Meanwhile, the lower house of Parliament approved a resolution alleging that Babis had “repeatedly lied” to the public and “misused his media” empire to damage his opponents.

The vote on the resolution followed a long and heated debate over recordings recently posted on social media that appeared to capture Babis and a journalist from his newspaper planning a press campaign against his rivals, including the Social Democrats.

Babis said Wednesday he “made a huge mistake” by meeting with the man in the recordings, but claimed it was a provocation to discredit him. The journalist was fired. Babis is sometimes dubbed the “Czech Berlusconi,” a comparison to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon who dominated Italian politics for many years.

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