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1 Jun, 2008 12:41

Czech opposition to join anti-radar hunger strike

A Czech opposition party has said it wants to join two anti-missile campaigners, who have been on hunger strike for almost three weeks. The protesters are demanding that the government ends talks with Washington or hold a public referendum on building an

At their party conference the Social Democrats suggested a chain hunger strike against the U.S. plans. They support the demands of the ‘No to Bases’ initiative group activists, Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar.

A treaty on hosting part of a U.S. missile-defense shield is to be ratified by the Czech parliament this summer.

Jan Tamas says he is risking his life on hunger strike because he doesn’t want “to live in a country occupied by foreign forces.”

“What our government is preparing is an occupation of our country by a foreign army without consulting the citizens – in fact against the will of citizens,” he says.

Another hunger striker, Jan Bednar has already lost 10 kilogrammes in weight. He has also eaten nothing for 20 days, drinking only water. His liver is failing and jaundice is setting in, so doctors are urging him to end his hunger strike, but he’s refusing. He may look weak, but his will is strong.

“I will continue as long as I can, because I want people to realise that our government is putting us in a seriously dangerous situation through its negotiations on the U.S. radar base,” he says.

Since last year, Prague has been negotiating the terms of installing a radar base on Czech soil with Washington. Russia and China have heavily condemned the plans, saying it would set back international disarmament efforts.

Across the Czech Republic the radar plans have been met by a wave of protests, and the latest hunger strike is, perhaps, a last resort.

The hunger strikers say the Czech government is acting undemocratically in refusing to the consult the public on the issue, even though the latest opinion polls show that 65 per cent of Czechs are against the radar base.

The majority of people want a referendum, but the government disagrees. With only a fragile majority in Parliament, the government wouldn't have it easy, especially as the Greens and the Social Democrats largely oppose the plans.