A group of Czech and Slovak tourists are reported to have caused a security alert at London’s Heathrow Airport on Thursday after customs detected an object resembling a detonator in one of their suitcases. According to the internet news site TVNOVINY.SK the group of seven Slovaks and two Czechs was surrounded by an anti-terrorist squad and questioned for close to seven hours. The Slovak in whose possession the suspicious object was found says he had no idea how it got there and claimed it may have been planted in his luggage while he slept. It is not clear how the object escaped the notice of customs officials at Vienna Airport. Seven members of the group have reportedly been released, the Slovak who caused the alarm and his wife remain in detention. The two Czechs who were bound for the United States reportedly returned to Bratislava after the US authorities refused them entry into the United States.
The damage caused by Monday’s gas explosion in Prague’s Divadelní street is estimated at 100 million crowns. Around 50 people are reported to have filed insurance claims. It is still not clear what caused the explosion and according to police sources the investigation could take several more weeks. Two small side streets near the embankment which sustained the worst damage remain closed. Over 40 people were injured in the accident, two of them seriously.
The cabinet has once again rejected a proposal to maintain the controversial S-Card system for social and welfare benefit payments which came into force in January. The scheme to streamline social and welfare benefit payments to newly-established bank accounts run by Česká Spořitelna has come under fire from all sides and Prime Minister Petr Nečas recently advised the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry to scrap the project. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Ludmilla Mullerová, who had repeatedly tried to win approval to keep the S-cards as a form of identification for welfare recipients, said she would comply with the cabinet’s decision.
Justice Minister Pavel Blažek has vehemently denied allegations that his ministry authored the controversial amnesty declared at the start of the year by then president Václav Klaus. The allegations came from Mr Klaus’ former legal advisor, Pavel Hasenkopf, who said the ministry had prepared a detailed draft of the amnesty with two goals in mind: alleviating the country’s overcrowded prisons and ridding the justice system of old cases. Minister Blažek said this was an outright lie, adding that he was considering legal action in the ministry’s defence. President Klaus’ controversial amnesty among others halted the prosecution of cases lasting for more than eight years including some high-profile corruption cases from the 1990s.
Two Czech bus drivers from the Student Agency company have been arrested in Norway. According to the internet news site iDnes the drivers were arrested a week ago after customs officers found hard drugs on board the student agency bus bound back to Prague. The passengers were reportedly flown back and the bus remains in Norway. A spokesperson for Student Agency has confirmed the arrest of two of its drivers and said it has asked the Norwegian authorities to release the company bus.
Czech war pilot Colonel Milan Malý, one of the last surviving Czechs who fought in the British Royal Air Force during World War Two, died at the age of 89 on Wednesday, the CTK news agency reports. After the war Colonel Malý served in the Czechoslovak military, but he was dismissed after the 1948 communist coup and was forced to seek manual jobs. He was rehabilitated after the fall of the communism in 1989. Colonel Malý was awarded three Czechoslovak and three British medals for bravery.
The Senate has approved a proposal to commemorate the legacy of Jan Palach and Jan Amos Comenius through significant days in the Czech calendar. Jan Palach will be remembered on January 16th, the day he set himself on fire in protest of the growing public apathy to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Jan Amos Comenius will be remembered on the day of his birth, March 28. There are presently 9 significant days in the Czech calendar and contrary to state holiday’s they are not days off. Their significance is merely symbolic.
State school-leaving exams began for around 100,000 Czech secondary school students on Thursday, May2. The exams start with written tests in the Czech language and either math or English. Oral exams will take place in mid-May. Some 60 percent of students allegedly opted for English, the rest choosing math. The school-leaving exams this year only have one level of difficulty, a change from last year when students could choose between an easier and a more difficult version of the exam.
The police have closed the case against an Anders Breivik sympathizer from Ostrava who was arrested in August of last year for illegal possession of explosives and weapons. The 29-year-old man was constructing a bomb in his flat and police suspected him of planning a terrorist attack. Psychological tests showed the man to be insane and he is being placed in institutionalized care.