Czech MEP Jan Brezina Wednesday said his recent call on the EU to consider suspending its aid to Zambia over the case of three Czechs detained in Lusaka has met its purpose and provoked Zambia’s reaction.
“Zambia’s reaction alone shows that my appeal has met its purpose,” Brezina (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) told CTK, referring to his call on EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton not to hesitate to threaten suspending development aid to Zambia.
He said he turned to Ashton as Zambia failed to react to Prague’s appeals in the case of detained Czechs.
“Our reaction and our appeal on the EU came at the time when Czech authorities and diplomacy sought a contact with Zambia but there was no reaction on the latter’s part,” Brezina said.
He said he has not received an answer from Ashton yet.
Citing the Zambian government, the Zambia Daily Mail newspaper has written that Lusaka considers it unfortunate that the Czech Republic is trying to solve the Czech suspects’ case via the EU.
The Zambian government says Prague is pushing for the imposition of EU sanctions on Zambia, but this has been dismissed by Czech ambassador Ludek Zahradnicek, the paper writes.
The three Czech tourists were caught photographing military barracks and an air base in Lusaka in October. They were arrested on suspicion of espionage. They face up to 25 years in prison, if found guilty. They have dismissed the accusations.
After a week in prison, they were released on bail but they cannot leave Zambia.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has sent a special envoy to Zambia. According to the Czech daily Lidove noviny (LN), the trial of the Czechs will start this week. The prosecutor is expected to withdraw the criminal charges, after which the Czechs might immediately return home, LN has written.
Zambian Foreign Minister Chishimba Kambwili describes Prague’s steps as unfortunate in Zambia Daily Mail Wednesday. He said the affair has been handled by a court and that the government does not interfere in judicial affairs.
It does not benefit bilateral diplomatic relations if the Czech Republic threatens Zambia with sanctions now that the deliberations are underway, Kambwili said.
Zambia is a sovereign state with its own laws, he told the paper, adding that the Zambian government is ready for a dialogue.
Zambia pays the highest political attention to the affair and its government would not make hasty decisions, Kambwili said.
The Czech Foreign Ministry says Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has made repeated attempts to personally contact Kambwili, who, however, always excused himself citing his busy schedule.
Zambian Daily Mail gives detailed information about Czech MEPs’ alleged appeal on the EU to intervene.
Czech MEP Evzen Tosenovsky (Civic Democrats, ODS) last week really said the case of the detained Czechs should gain a European dimension with EU bodies intervening in it. Nevertheless, Tosenovsky said he would rather refrain from exerting economic pressure.
On the other hand, Brezina did mention the EU’s possible economic pressure in his letter to Ashton.
Zahradnicek, Czech ambassador to Zimbabwe who also represents Prague in Zambia, categorically dismissed Prague’s threatening with sanctions. He told the Zambian Daily Mail that these malicious fames of an unknown origin are unsubstantiated. He believes that the affair will be settled in accordance with Zambian law, he added.
Czech News Agency