Czechs imprisoned in Thailand return home

Drug smugglers Emil Novotny and Radek Hanykovics, photo: CTK

Two Czech men, caught for smuggling drugs under the unforgiving drug laws of Thailand, arrived at the Prague airport on Tuesday. The Czech Justice Ministry had sent an application for their transfer last June. But what does this mean for the prisoners to be back in the Czech Republic?

Drug smugglers Emil Novotny and Radek Hanykovics,  photo: CTK
Emil Novotny - now 28- was arrested in March 1995 at Bangkok Airport for carrying 4.2 kilograms of heroin. Under Thailand's draconian drug laws, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison. His sentence was later commuted under a royal amnesty, but he still faces another 34 years behind bars.

A year after Novotny was arrested, Radek Hanykovics - who is 35 - was also caught at Bangkok Airport, carrying 2.4 kilograms of heroin. He too was sentenced to 50 years, but his sentence was halved in the amnesty. He's due to be released in 2021.

The story of the two convicted crimminals has evoked a wide array of media attention. Today on the front of page of Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes was Jan Hanykovics holding a photo of his brother Radek saying, "I look forward to my brother's return". After 8 years already spent in the Bang Kwang prison, the two men are returning home to the Czech Republic, "home" to a Czech prison that is, which apparently is a step up from the medieval conditions they experienced in Thailand.

The two men, who were handed over to a Czech police escort in Bangkok, flew to Paris and arrived in Prague on Tuesday. Naturally such a transfer does have its price. For preparations and travel costs and Hanykovics and Novotny will have each had to dish out around 100 000 crowns, or 4000 US dollars.

Upon arrival they will be placed in quarantine and will undergo thorough medical examinations. The time they spend in quarantine will depend on their condition and the treatment they will need.

Diplomatic negotiations had to be foregone in order for the two men to be transferred back to the Czech Republic. Although the maximum sentence under Czech law for drugs offences is fifteen years, the terms of a Czech-Thai agreement require the prisoners to live out their full sentence. The only chance of a pardon can be granted by Czech prezident Vaclav Klaus. The president has already declined and it is the opinion of some Czech commentators that it is not worth damaging international reputation for the sake of crimminals.