Daily news summary News

22-03-2004

Svoboda criticises Israel's killing of Hamas' spiritual leader

Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has criticised Israel's killing of Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin on Monday. In Brussels Mr Svoboda spoke with the Czech news agency CTK deploring the cycle of revenge attacks, saying such attacks could not "solve anything". At the same time Mr Svoboda had criticism for the Palestinians over the discovery at the weekend of a Palestinian boy with explosives in his school bag. Earlier this year the Czech Republic indicated its aim to specialise in Middle Eastern affairs within the framework of the European Union, which it joins on May 1st. In the past Palestinian leaders such as Yasser Arafat have also asked the Czechs to exert their influence in the troubled peace process.

Polish authorities detain Pakistani nationals

Police in the Polish capital of Warsaw have detained two Pakistani nationals, finding possession of suspiciously marked maps in one suspect's apartment. The Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza has written the maps contain markings outlining the airport, the Warsaw synagogue as well as the locations of the British and Czech embassies, prompting a reaction from Czech embassy officials. They said that although they had not been contacted by police, the Czech embassy would be stepping up security measures. Of the two men in custody one first attracted police attention at Warsaw's main station on Sunday, leading to the arrests. Besides the maps in the apartment police found an Air Italia leaflet showing a plan of a plane allegedly marked with two crosses. Both Pakistani nationals have been in Poland since last November, when they filed for refugee status. Their identities have not been released.

State attorney rejects complaint, case against explosives importers continues

The trial of two men in the Czech Republic, charged with illegally importing 328 tonnes of explosives into the country, will continue, a state attorney has said. On Monday the suspects' complaint they were being tried wrongly for something that wasn't a crime was swept aside. Both men are charged with illegally importing military material, which among other things violated regulations from 1991's Montreal Convention, as the explosives were unmarked. And though both of the accused admit to bringing in the explosives from Sweden, they are claiming they needed the material for their demolition firm. Police are currently investigating a scenario whereby the duo may have been planning to sell the explosives abroad.

Knizak pulls out of EP race

The head of the National Gallery Milan Knizak has announced that he will be withdrawing his bid to run in elections to the European Parliament in June. Although just two weeks ago Mr Knizak promised the National Coalition he would run as one of its representatives, the National Gallery head has since come to the conclusion he would be unable to balance his duties as "eurominister" and gallery head if he were elected. Mr Knizak, withdrawing his bid on Monday said he would concentrate instead on making the National Gallery one of European calibre.

Reptiles smuggler caught

Customs officers have revealed they caught a Czech man on Monday trying to smuggle almost 70 snakes, lizards and other rare reptiles into the Czech Republic. The man was detained arriving from Indonesia at Prague's Ruzyne Airport. The smuggled animals, worth an estimated 650,000 crowns, were found in the man's luggage and clothes, customs spokesman Zdenek Malek said. The suspect, who is believed to be a leading organiser in the illegal trade of animals in western Europe, could now face up to five years in prison. Czech environmental officials, meanwhile, have taken the smuggled reptiles into their care. This latest case follows a similar arrest in January when another Czech man - also arriving from Indonesia - was caught trying to smuggle in similarly rare specimens.

Weather

Tuesday is expected to see sunny intervals with daytime temperatures ranging between 4 and 9 degrees Celsius.

22-03-2004