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Minister: Czechs in Lebanon to be handed over on Thursday

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Prague, Feb 3 (CTK) – The transfer of the five Czechs in Lebanon to the Czech Republic is expected to be agreed by Thursday and they should return home then, Foreign Minister Zaoralek Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) told reporters yesterday.

The men are now being questioned by the Lebanese authorities, he added.

Zaoralek told Czech Television (CT) Wednesday night that the questioning by Lebanese authorities is to continue Thursday morning.

After this questioning the five Czechs are to be handed over to the Czech team, probably before noon on Thursday, he said.

CT reported that a Czech plane that is to fly the five men home landed in Beirut on Thursday night.

The five men, including a military intelligence officer according to papers, went missing in Lebanon last July and set free on Monday.

The Czech Republic is not trading with terrorists, Zaoralek said, commenting on the media speculations about the five Czechs swapped for Lebanese Ali Fayad, detained in the Czech Republic.

A special plane left Prague for Lebanon at 14:00 on Wednesday to pick the five Czechs.

“I am convinced that they will be released [by the Lebanese authorities] since everything indicates it,” Zaoralek told reporters during the government meeting.

“I expect our plane to arrive there tonight and I suppose that today or on Thursday, we might, via our ambassador, agree that the detained Czech citizens be released to us and could prepare them for return to their homeland,” Zaoralek added Wednesday.

Health care personnel, police officers and other experts will be aboard the plane. After their return to the Czech Republic, the five Czechs will undergo a routine medical check-up and then they should be released.

Zaoralek refused to comment on the media reports saying the release of the Czechs was a diplomatic deal in the form of their swap for Fayad, alleged collaborator of the Lebanese secret services. He also dismissed the information about the Czechs being detained in Lebanon with the awareness of the local authorities.

It is not true that the Lebanese exerted pressure on the Czech ambassador to Beirut after Fayad’s arrest, Zaoralek said.

Fayad has been in custody in the Czech Republic since April 2014 on suspicion of cooperation with terrorists. The United States demands his extradition.

In mid-December last year, the Prague High Court confirmed that Fayad can be extradited to the United States, the same as another two men accused in his case – Faouzi Jaber and Khaled Marabi.

The final consent to the extradition of the men, who face a life sentence in the USA, is yet to be given by Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan.

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