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Turkish court upholds Czechs’ prison sentence for helping Kurds

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Prague/Ankara, Dec 1 (CTK) – A Turkish appeals court has upheld six years and three months in prison given to two Czechs for cooperation with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michaela Lagronova told CTK on Friday.

Their defence councils filed a petition for appellate review with the Turkish Supreme Court in late November, but its decision-making might last from three to nine months, she said.

Czech Marketa Vselichova and Miroslav Farkas stay in the prison in Van, southeastern Turkey, where they were in custody after a lower-level court issued its verdict in August.

The Czechs claim they are humanitarian activists who were heading for Iraq to establish a field hospital there.

They were detained at the Turkish border and accused of involvement in a terrorist organisation last November. According to the indictment, they repeatedly visited the camps of “terrorists” in Turkey.

Unlike Turkey, the Czech Republic does not consider the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia a terrorist organisation.

“The appeals court has upheld the lower-level court’s verdict. Both convicts can file a petition for appellate review, which their defence counsels have already done,” Lagronova said.

Czech diplomacy is in contact with the families and defence counsels of the two defendants and tries to provide its utmost support and service for them.

The consul of the Czech Republic in Turkey is visiting the Czechs in prison. “Now, we must wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict, we must respect the independence of Turkish courts,” she said.

Outgoing Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) expressed deep disappointment at the lower-level court’s verdict issued in the summer. He said he believed that a higher-level court would assess the case in a different way.

He said then he would like to discuss further steps in the process with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

However, the current coalition government of the CSSD, ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) tendered its resignation this week. A new diplomacy head to succeed Zaoralek is likely to be outgoing Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) who should assume office on December 13, along with the whole new cabinet.

For a possible extradition of the two Czechs by Turkey, Prague would have to accept the verdict saying that they assisted in terrorist activities, Czech Television (CT) said later on Friday.

According to Zaoralek, however, it is difficult to recognise the Turkish verdict because it goes counter to the Czech constitution. “In our country, it is hard to imprison someone for something that is not considered a crime here,” Zaoralek said in August.

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