Press Review

The situation in Afghanistan continues to dominate the front pages today - the papers say it may be just a matter of hours before the besieged al-Qaeda fighters give up their weapons. And there's just one story today for the country's picture editors as well - the papers all feature front-page colour photos of the commemorations in the United States, exactly three months since the terrorist attacks.

Closer to home, there's detailed coverage of a high-profile court case against members of the former Communist secret police. The former agents are being tried for forcing dissidents to flee the country - in a concerted operation dubbed "Asanace" or "Slum clearance." The dissidents say they were faced with the choice of either spending their lives in exile, or facing prison and harassment in their homeland.

Mlada fronta Dnes says the Communist agents involved either fail to understand the depth of the crimes they committed, or else they're putting on a very good act for the judge. Their common mantra is "what law did we break?" and they emphasise that the activities of former dissidents were in violation of the laws of the time. Asked whether he felt remorse, one of the former Communist agents told the paper "No, actually I expect an apology". The trial has been adjourned until February.

On a different topic, Pravo says that although the government's decision to approve the purchase of 24 new Supersonic fighter jets for the Czech Air Force earlier this week was not well received at first, an increasing number of MPs appear to be coming round to the government's way of thinking and have considerably toned down their protests.

The opposition Four-Party Coalition is now divided over the issue, says the paper, and Christian Democrat deputy Miroslav Kalousek has challenged those parliamentary colleagues still opposed to the idea to present a viable alternative. The Communists have also not ruled out giving their support, and Pravo says that the chances of the Czech Air Force receiving two dozen Gripen fighter jets are rising steadily.

On a more local note Pravo warns readers in Prague to beware of pickpockets dressed as businessmen! Pickpockets abound in the Christmas season, and not all of them look the part, says the paper. In order to work "undercover" as it were, many of them are dressing up in a "suit, tie and briefcase" outfit that would serve them well in the boardroom. "They're keeping up with the times," a detective told the paper.

And finally, the papers report on the birth of quadruplets at a Prague hospital on Tuesday. The chance of conceiving quadruplets are around one in a million - and the proud parents are Vietnamese. They are said to be delighted with their offspring, and have given them some rather elegant names: they're called Fidelity, Beauty, Prosperity and Honesty.