Artists Face Trial Over Fake Nuke Blast on TV

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A group of Czech artists who allegedly hacked into a national television weather broadcast to show a fake nuclear blast at a mountain resort will face trial and possible three-year jail terms if convicted, a state prosecutor said Thursday.

Members of the group allegedly tampered with equipment so Czech viewers watching a live panoramic shot of the Krkonose, or Giant Mountains, in the northern Czech Republic on June 17, 2007, were jolted by a flash of bright light. When the light cleared, a fiery mushroom cloud could be seen rising on the horizon.

Six members of the Prague-based Ztohoven group were charged last month with spreading false information, said Dusan Ondracek, the state prosecutor in the northern town of Trutnov, who is in charge of the case.

The group claimed the aim of the project named "Media Reality" was to show how reality could be manipulated by the media. The public broadcaster Czech Television called the project "improper" and said it could scare a great number of people.

In December, Prague's National Gallery awarded the group the new NG 333 prize for young artists. The 333 stands for the size of the cash prize — 333,000 koruna, the equivalent of $18,350. The Ztohoven group was the first to receive the new prize.

Ondracek said a trial could start this month but no date had been set. If found guilty, each defendant could face a maximum sentence of three years in jail. He said one more person would be charged within the next few days.