Czech police say they have arrested two men and a woman accused of smuggling cocaine and the party drug ecstasy from the Netherlands to the Czech Republic. The suspects are believed to be part of a four-member gang, whose leader has been detained by German customs officers. The Czech police hope to have him extradited to the Czech Republic. A police spokesperson said on Wednesday, most of the drugs were sold at nightclubs in the South Moravian towns of Znojmo and Mikulov, owned by one of the arrested men, an Austrian national. The gang was broken up under a six-month operation code-named Abiba, organised by the National Drug Centre.
The Czech Supreme Administrative Court has made three separate rulings in which environmentalists are to gain access to any information concerning the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. Czech environmentalists took the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SUJB) to court, after a several year-long unsuccessful battle for information including the power plant's safety plans, accident plans, and recorded technical faults.
A court in Prague has ruled that Dagmar Havlova, the sister-in-law of former Czech president Vaclav Havel, had not breached bankruptcy rules when she failed to provide information to facilitate a company sell-off. In 1999, Mrs Havlova bought part of Prague's Lucerna Palace from a company that was later forced to declare bankruptcy. The administrator of the company's assets asked Mrs Havlova to give him information and documents needed to dissolve and sell-off the company. She failed to do so and was taken to court.
Former TV star Tereza Pergnerova has been found guilty of distributing drugs. Ms Pergnerova was given a one year suspended sentence by a Prague court on Wednesday, which ruled she had supplied her brother's former girlfriend with the Czech made amphetamine pervitine. Ms Pergnerova, who gained fame as the host of a popular music programme in the 1990s, says she will appeal the verdict.
The leaders of the country's governing coalition have approved a package of measures aimed at stabilising the country's troubled health-care system - measures intended to have an effect over the next two years. After the cabinet meeting Tuesday, Miroslav Kalousek, the head of the junior coalition party the Christian Democrats, told journalists that roughly twenty reform measures had been agreed upon, including a 100 percent redistribution of insurance payments among insurance companies. Mr Kalousek stressed that some of the measures had already been put into effect, including the funding of 3.4 billion crowns to troubled hospitals, and the buying up 3 billion crowns in health insurers' debts by consolidation agencies. The new package of measures agreed upon by the cabinet will now be submitted to Health Minister Marie Souckova, to be incorporated into an overall proposal for extensive health-care reforms. Mrs Souckova has staked her ministerial post on the planned reforms that have yet to be debated in Parliament.
Tuesday morning saw a climbing accident leave two Czech mountaineers stranded in Slovakia's High Tatra Mountains, while two fell to their deaths. The mountaineers got into trouble at around 7 a.m. local time in an area known as the Small Ice Shield. Rescue crews immediately began operations. Dangerous weather conditions and difficult terrain, however, hampered rescue efforts. One of the surviving climbers was taken to hospital in the town of Poprad, while rescuers were finally able to reach the remaining mountaineer Tuesday night. He was taken to hospital and is recovering from his ordeal with only minor injuries. A crew of some 18 rescue workers along with specially trained dogs and a helicopter crew were all involved in the operation to save the climbers' lives.
The Czech Actor's Association has revealed its nominees for this year's Thalie awards, given for Best Performance on the stage in four areas: theatre, opera, ballet/pantomime, and musical. Those nominated this year include popular actress Barbora Hrzanova, actor Jiri Langmajer, and singer Jiri Korn. The Thalie Awards will be held on March 27th.
Also following government talks on Tuesday: chairman of the Freedom Union's deputies club Karel Kunhl and the leader of the Christian Democrats Miroslav Kalousek stated they believed that a recent government agreement on raising regulated rent was indeed valid, with Mr Kalousek saying he thought the agreement reached would be a "viable compromise" for most Social Democrat MPs. That, however, has not been reflected by the Social Democrats so far: last week several Social Democrats, including Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, cast doubt on the agreement reached in January, and on Tuesday Social Democrat negotiators continued to insist a rise in rents should grow more slowly than previously proposed. In January Finance Minister Sobotka and Minister for Local Development Pavel Nemec approved a plan that would see regulated-rents go up three times by 2006, each time at a rate of 10 percent. However, due to an expected rise in the VAT on the water rate, Mr Sobotka hinted at the weekend the rise in regulated rent might come down several percentage points.
Elected officials in the region of southern Bohemia have expressed their opposition to a plan to complete third and fourth reactor blocs at the Czech Republic's controversial Temelin nuclear power plant. In a resolution drafted on Tuesday officials also expressed their opposition to the creation of a deep-storage nuclear waste facility in the region. The resolution serves as a "recommendation" to the government. District commissioner Jan Zahradnik indicated on Tuesday it would now be up to the government on how it "weighed" the resolution.
President Vaclav Klaus has become the country's most popular politician, winning 69% of confidence votes, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM polling agency. The President's popularity ratings have soared during his first year in office, going from 35% in January of last year to the present 69%. Interior minister Stanislav Gross has placed second on the popularity ladder with a 60% confidence rating, and the country's Ombudsman Otakar Motejl has placed third with 54 %.
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