The police have arrested a gang of nine Czechs and other nationals who they say organised the smuggling of Chinese people into Europe. The arrests followed co-operation with police in Italy, Germany and Austria. During the time the gang were under surveillance they smuggled around 800 people through the Czech Republic, a police spokesperson said on Tuesday.
The Usti nad Labem regional authority has begun handing out leaflets in German alerting tourists who cross the border from the neighbouring state of Saxony of the fact that child prostitution is a crime. Regional governor Jiri Sulc took part in the campaign on Tuesday, handing out leaflets at a border crossing, the website Novinky reported. The German branch of UNICEF published a report in November saying the Czech-German border region was rife with child prostitution, though Czech authorities say it is not a common problem.
Meanwhile, President Klaus - who is currently on an official visit to Portugal - has granted pardons to nine people, among them a young man who killed his aggressive and bullying father. The pardons have been granted on humanitarian grounds, the president's spokesman said on Tuesday. Mr Klaus has pardoned 16 people since being appointed just over a year ago. He had previously been critical of the number of pardons granted by his predecessor, Vaclav Havel.
The Prague brewery Staropramen is to increase the prices of its draught and bottled beer by around 6 percent from next month, a spokesperson said on Tuesday. The price rise follows a similar move by Pilsner Urquell earlier this month. Since the year 2000 Staropramen has been owned by the Belgian group Interbrew. It has a 14 percent share of the Czech beer market.
Polish police have released three men suspected of planning terrorist attacks on the Czech Embassy and other targets in the Polish capital Warsaw. The street where the city's Czech Embassy is located was marked on a map found in the flat of the three men, two Palestinians and a Ukrainian. A spokesperson for the Czech Embassy said on Tuesday that there was no evidence the three had been planning a terrorist attack.
Vaclav Klaus has criticised the chairman of the Christian Democrat group in the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, for statements he made after the Czech president cancelled a meeting with him while he was on a visit to Prague. Mr Poettering told Czech and German journalists that such things would only happen in a dictatorship. Mr Klaus has written a letter of protest to Mr Poettering, the president's spokesman said on Tuesday. Mr Klaus, who is sceptical about European Union integration, said such behaviour would not give an encouraging signal to the Czech public or politicians as the country prepares for imminent accession to the Union.
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.
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.
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