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.
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.
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.
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.
The government and opposition parties have agreed to set up a joint committee to create a long-term pension policy for the Czech Republic. A group of experts nominated by all five parties in the Chamber of Deputies should be formed by the middle of April, the prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, told reporters late on Saturday evening. He said the pension system needs to be reformed because of the Czech Republic's aging population and low birth rate.
Parts of the Czech Republic were hit by strong winds on Saturday night. A 133-kilometre-an-hour hurricane was recorded at the peak of the country's highest mountain, Snezka in east Bohemia. Firemen were called out to deal with roofs being blown off houses, while trees were blown down in some places. Meanwhile, heavy rains and thawing snow have led to flood alerts in east Bohemia as rivers in the area threaten to break their banks.
The fourteenth annual Prague Writers' Festival gets underway on Sunday evening at the city's Minor theatre. Among those due to attend the opening is the South African Nobel prize-winning novelist Nadine Gordimer, who is the festival's special guest this year. Other guests include the German poet Hans Magnus Enzenberger, the American author Gary Shteyngart and Czech writer Eda Kriseova.
The case of former Communist era StB secret police agent Pavel Minarik is to be reopened, Czech Television reported on Saturday. He is accused of planning to bomb the headquarters of Radio Free Europe in the German city of Munich. Mr Minarik worked as an StB agent at the station from 1969 to 1976 and sent at least three proposals to carry out a bomb attack to his superiors in Prague, according to the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism. His case has been in and out of the Czech courts for over a decade.
The singer Raduza has picked up three prizes at the Czech music industry's annual Andel, or Angel, awards. Raduza was named female singer of the year, new artist of the year and folk and country artist of the year at the ceremony in Prague on Saturday night. Male singer of the year was Dan Barta, Kabat were group of the year while singer-songwriter Jaromir Nohavica was inducted into the Hall of Fame.