Two Czechs were among 13 people sentenced to prison in the Antilles on Thursday for drugs smuggling. The two Czech citizens were sentenced to 30 months in prison by a court on the island of Sint Maarten, after being found guilty of attempting to smuggle 10 kilos of cocaine out of the country. The two had visited the Antilles - which are part of the Netherlands - as tourists. The remaining 11 people sentenced were Slovaks.
Czech customs officers have seized packages of cocaine and marihuana on a bus heading for Prague from Rotterdam. The seizure was made at the Rozvadov crossing on the Czech-German border. Customs officers found 36 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of 30,000 crowns (around 1,000 US dollars) and small amounts of marihuana. Police were unable to identify the owners of the packages and no arrests were made.
And President Klaus has denied that Thursday's speech to deputies in the lower house was an attack on the centre-left coalition of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. Mr Klaus said he had merely identified several serious problems facing the country. In his speech Mr Klaus criticised the record budget deficit proposed for 2004, and also raised objections to the government's package of finance reforms, which must be signed by the president before they become law.
President Vaclav Klaus indirectly criticised the policy of Vladimir Spidla's coalition government in a speech delivered in the lower house of the Czech Parliament on Thursday. President Klaus pointed to the record-high deficit of the draft 2004 state budget, the planned public finance reform and the growth of the state power at the cost of civic freedom. Mr Klaus also called on Czech politicians to act in unity when dealing with key issues of the state. President Klaus's speech in the lower house on Thursday was his first address to deputies since his election in February this year.
The senior state prosecutor's office in Prague has ordered police to reopen the case against 72-year-old Jiri Pasovsky, who shot dead a diplomat at the Nigerian embassy in February. Mr Pasovsky, a retired doctor, was declared criminally insane and admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and the criminal proceedings against him were halted. However in September he was released from hospital on his own request. The Nigerian embassy sent an official letter of protest to the Czech government over the affair. Nigeria has also announced it is closing its embassy in Prague, although it claims this is unrelated to the shooting incident.
NATO has formally launched its rapid response force, which includes the Czech Republic's elite nuclear, biological and chemical unit. The 9,000-strong NATO Response Force (NRF) will be capable of deployment to troublespots anywhere in the world within five days. When complete, the force should number more than 20,000 troops. Among them is the 500-strong Czech-led anti-chemical unit based in Liberec, which saw action in the 1991 Gulf War and the US-led invasion of Iraq. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999.
The main opposition Civic Democrats have called on Interior Minister Stanislav Gross and police chief Jiri Kolar to resign over what the party describes as the country's "corrupt and unprofessional" police force. Civic Democrat deputy chairman Ivan Langer told reporters the two were responsible for a range of problems in the police force, including rampant corruption, distortion of statistics and low respect among the public. The police recently launched high-profile campaigns targeting bad drivers and illegal prostitution. The opposition and some in the media have dismissed the campaigns as publicity stunts.
And following last weekend's nationwide raids on the country's brothels, police have gathered personal details on thousands of prostitutes, which they say will help the authorities track their movements when the Czech Republic joins the European Union next year. During last weekend's raids, the largest crackdown on prostitution in the country's history, police interviewed and compiled personal data on thousands of women working in 435 brothels across the country. An estimated 15,000 prostitutes, generally from countries in eastern Europe, work in the Czech Republic, most along the German and Austrian borders.
The Czech Republic and Austria will exchange areas of land adding up to more than 40,000 square metres along their common border, under a bill passed in the lower house on Wednesday. The redrawing of the Czech-Austrian border is to allow for rivers gradually changing their course and will also improve access to private property. The bill does not account for any transfers of population. The Czech Republic has been locked in dispute with Poland for 45 years over similar territorial changes on the Czech-Polish border.
Former communist hardliner Karel Hoffman was sentenced to six years in prison by the High Court in Prague on Monday. During the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, Mr Hoffman, who was head of telecommunications at the time, ordered radio broadcasting to shut down, thereby helping to crush the "Prague Spring" reform movement. A lower court in Prague had already found him guilty of abuse of office and sentenced him to four years in prison in June. The verdict was appealed by the defendant and state attorney. The High Court has now raised the original four-year sentence to six years, finding him guilty of sabotage.