Prague, Nov 21 (CTK) – Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan (ANO) visited Lebanese agent Ali Fayad in prison and let him use his ministerial mobile phone, the Czech Radio Radiozurnal reported on Tuesday, referring to information from three trustworthy sources.
Arms dealer Fayad was released from Czech custody last February though the United States demanded his extradition on suspicion of support for a terrorist organisation. At the same time, five Czechs kidnapped in Lebanon returned home.
Right-wing politicians criticise Pelikan’s steps as “arbitrary.”
Both Minister Pelikan and his brother, Arabist Petr Pelikan, saw Fayad in prison.
The Aktualne.cz server has reported that Petr Pelikan, who studied in Lebanon in the past and is a Muslim convert, negotiated the exchange of Fayad for five Czechs kidnapped in Lebanon and he stayed in Beirut after the exchange was agreed as a safeguard for the local government.
Minister Pelikan probably visited Fayad in jail on his own account. He did not mention this at the meetings of the government and the National Security Council dealing with the Fayad case, which Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) confirmed.
It is not known whom Fayad contacted from Pelikan’s mobile phone, the radio reported.
Sources from Pelikan’s surroundings say Fayad called to Lebanon, where he had agreed who would be negotiating about his exchange for the five kidnapped Czechs, the radio said.
The police, investigating the kidnapping circumstances, did not know about Pelikan’s visit to prison. Detectives suspected Fayad of helping mastermind the kidnapping.
As Fayad was able to fix his exchange from prison, he must have known who was behind the kidnapping, the radio reporters said.
Civic Democrat (ODS) MP Jana Cernochova called the step by the Pelikan brothers “an unprecedented guerilla-like procedure.” The justice minister was lying to the opposition and the public, she said.
Pelikan thereby made himself untrustworthy and he should not be in the next government, while the Chamber of Deputies should deal with this case again, Cernochova said.
MEP Jiri Pospisil (TOP 09), former justice minister, said he considered Pelikan’s steps arbitrary. It is not usual that the justice minister meets the people on whose extradition he is deciding, Pospisil added.
“This raises doubts about why the minister did not meet the U.S. extradition request and released Mr Fayad,” Pospisil told the radio.
The five Czechs, interpreter from Arabic Adam Homsi, defence lawyer Jan Svarc, journalists Miroslav Dobes and Pavel Kofron and military intelligence agent Martin Psik, were kidnapped in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon near the Syrian border in July 2015. Svarc was Fayad’s lawyer in the Czech Republic.
The men returned to the Czech Republic in February 2016. On the same day, Fayad was released from custody in the Czech Republic as Pelikan did not meet the U.S. request for his extradition, citing intelligence information among the reasons.
Shortly afterwards, Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) confirmed to the media that the five Czechs’ release was made conditional on the Czech Republic’s refusal to extradite Fayad to the United States. A Lebanese court acquitted him of charges later.