Press: StB agents monitored Klaus in 1980s

The current Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, was spied on by the communist StB secret police during the 1980s, Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Wednesday. The StB searched Mr Klaus's office, bugged his home and read his letters, the paper reported. The secret police reportedly developed an interest in Mr Klaus's economics lectures after an informer told them that he had invited "non-Marxists and right-wingers to attend". The president's wife Livia was also monitored.

Male nurse admits to attempting to kill over 40 people

A male nurse who has admitted to using a blood-thinning drug to murder nine patients at a hospital in Havlickuv Brod says he attempted to kill a total of 43 people, the Prima and Nova TV stations reported. Petr Zelenka reportedly made the admission in an extremely detailed written testimony. Police expect to conclude their investigation into the killings this autumn.

Lower house approves amendment making possession of child pornography a crime

The lower house of Parliament has approved an amendment to the Penal Code under which the possession of child pornography is a criminal offence. Under current Czech law, only distributors of such material face legal punishment. The new law, which has yet to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President, has anyone caught in possession of child pornography face up to two years in prison.

Supreme state attorney defends intervention in Cunek case before committee

The supreme state attorney, Renata Vesecka, has defended her removal of the prosecutor overseeing the case of Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. Speaking before a Chamber of Deputies legal committee, Ms Vesecka denied opposition claims that her intervention had been politically motivated; she also called on politicians not to play power games through the legal system.

The supreme state attorney on Friday replaced the prosecutor overseeing a case of alleged bribe-taking against Mr Cunek as it was about to come to court. She said he had made procedural errors.

Czech Republic and Hungary slow on preparations for adoption of euro

The Czech Republic and Hungary will be the only EU member states at the end of 2008 to have a state budget deficit higher than 3 percent of GDP. In this respect, a new European Commission report says, the two countries are the least prepared for the adoption of the euro. The Commission, which polices public finances in the EU, also includes the Czech Republic in a group of six countries with the most risky prospected public finance development.

Ombudsman: Roma rent defaulters in Vsetin should not have been moved to rundown buildings

The Moravian town of Vsetin made a grave error when it evicted a number of Roma rent defaulters last year, Ombudsman Otakar Motejl announced on Wednesday. The move to re-house the Romanies in portacabins and rundown buildings violated their basic human rights, Mr Motejl said. Some of the buildings lacked basic necessities like electricity and running water. Current Christian Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek, who was mayor of Vsetin at the time of the eviction has been facing much criticism for the move.

Victims of Nazism: Roma WWII victims should be commemorated in dignified manner

International organisations of victims of Nazism have turned to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to help honour the site of a former concentration camp in south Bohemia where over 300 Romanies died during WWII. In Berlin, on Wednesday, the organisations criticised the Czech government for having done little to remove a pig farm that is currently on the site. In an appeal addressed to Mrs Merkel and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, the victims of Nazism insisted that the Romany victims from the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia are commemorated in a dignified manner.

Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg: Croatia should join EU when Prague holds presidency

The Czech Republic would like to see Croatia join the European Union during its EU presidency in the first half of 2009. During a visit to Zagreb on Wednesday, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Prague is ready to share its experiences with Croatia to help it prepare for EU accession. Croatia started accession talks in October 2005 and its goal is to join the Union in two years' time.

Excise tax on tobacco to be higher than EU recommendation

The Czech Republic, as of next year, will most probably have a higher excise tax rate on tobacco than the EU recommends. According to a new excise tax bill that is part of the reform package currently being discussed in Parliament, the tax is to rise to 1200 crowns per kilogram from 905 crowns, Deputy Finance Minister Dana Trezziova told the CTK news agency on Wednesday. The higher rate was pushed through by the health ministry, Ms Trezziova added.

The gradual increase in the price of cigarettes has led to many Czech smokers buying cheaper brands or rolling their own cigarettes.

Lower house rejects bill on Olympic medallists' pension

The lower house of Parliament has rejected a bill that would require the state to provide former Olympic medallists with a special pension. The pension was to be paid to those Olympic medallists who are retired but are forced to live on less than the minimum wage. Czech sportsmen who won a medal for Czechoslovakia between 1918 and 1992 would have been eligible for the pension.

The deputies who opposed the proposal on Wednesday said that the bill would turn sportsmen and sportswomen into an elite group. Equally important groups like actors, scientists, and former political prisoners would also have the right to demand similar state subsidies, some argued.

Fugitive billionaire back in Johannesburg police custody

A Czech-born fugitive billionaire, for whom a search warrant has been issued in South Africa, is back in police custody. Radovan Krejcir is wanted in the Czech Republic on several charges including extensive fraud and conspiracy to murder. In 2005, he managed to escape to the Seychelles. The Czech authorities have since been unsuccessful at negotiating an extradition agreement because Mr Krejcir had bought Seychelles citizenship before his escape.

Travelling under a false identity, Mr Krejcir was detained at Johannesburg airport in April but his lawyers managed to negotiate his release under false pretences last week. A Johannesburg police spokesperson says Mr Krejcir is now back in custody. While earlier reports claimed Mr Krejcir had given himself up to the police, new reports say he was arrested in his lawyers' office which is located right next to a Johannesburg district police station. The Czech authorities sent an official request for his extradition to the South African authorities on Monday.

Weather forecast

Overcast skies and scattered rain are expected to continue in the next few days. Day temperatures will remain warm this week, with highs of around 30 degrees Celsius.