Prague, Nov 22 (CTK) – The lives of the five kidnapped Czech citizens were a priority during the negotiations about their exchange for Lebanese agent Ali Fayad whose extradition the USA demanded, Arabist Petr Pelikan, brother of Justice Minister Robert Pelikan, has told the Aktualne.cz server.
Petr Pelikan, who studied in Lebanon in the past and is a Muslim convert, negotiated the exchange of Fayad for the Czechs kidnapped in Lebanon and he stayed in Beirut after the exchange was agreed as a safeguard for the local government.
He perceives the fact that the Czech Republic was not able to extradite Fayad to the United States as a “dignified loss,” he said in an interview with the server.
“We had to choose between the lives of Czech citizens and allied interests,” he said.
“We bartered it off at least eventually so that one of the three villains was extradited to the U.S.,” Petr Pelikan said.
He also denies the information about his brother, Minister Pelikan (ANO), having lent his cell phone to Fayad in prison.
“Fayad definitely did not call from the minister’s phone,” Petr Pelikan said.
He reacted to the Czech Radio Radiozurnal’s report from Tuesday saying Justice Minister Pelikan visited Lebanese agent Ali Fayad in prison and let him use his mobile phone.
Right-wing politicians criticised Pelikan’s steps as “arbitrary.”.
Minister Pelikan refused to comment on his steps in view of the sensitive character of the case. “I can only assure you that all events are documented duly, but this documentation is in a classified regime,” Justice Ministry spokeswoman Tereza Schejbalova told CTK, conveying the minister’s stance.
His brother Petr was invited to the negotiations about the kidnapped Czechs’ release as an independent expert, which seemed logical to him since he was well-versed in the Middle East area, he said.
In the past, P. Pelikan registered as a volunteer for the Gulf War.
In Lebanon, he negotiated with intermediaries from the Lebanese state bodies. Kidnapping cases are quite frequent in Lebanon, he added.
The intermediary with whom P. Pelikan was negotiating the exchange settled the release of seven Estonian cyclists in the past.
P. Pelikan also said he had not been paid for his role of a consultant in the kidnapping case.
Some time ago, he was summoned to the police to give explanation on the basis of a suggestion from the Government Office on suspicion of a classified information leak.
He said he had not been informed that the data on the case were classified and had not signed anything in this respect. “I never wanted this to be made public,” he also said.
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.
The Czech police arrested Fayad along with Faouzi Jaber and Khaled Marabi in April 2014. The United States suspected the three Lebanese of attempting to sell cocaine and arms to agents of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy who pretended being members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Colombian terrorist organisation.
Pelikan rejected the extradition of Fayad and Marabi, but he decided to extradite Jaber, Ivory Coast citizen of Lebanese origin, to the U.S.