Five missing Czechs said to be alive and still in Lebanon

Photo: Czech Television

Information about the five Czechs who went missing in Lebanon in July has been pretty sparse since the first surge of reports and activity surrounding their disappearance almost three months ago. That silence holds good both for Czech and local Lebanese media. But that story changed on Wednesday with some hopeful news.

Five missing Czechs,  photo: Czech Police
News out of the Czech Republic on Wednesday held out some hope for the Czechs’ current condition and future. The Právo newspaper reported that the five are alive and, apparently, still in Lebanon, although the kidnapping took place close to the Syrian border.

The daily paper said Czech secret service and security services had received that information not directly from the kidnappers but from intermediaries. The details were given as a reliable source in Czech security circles in day to day contact with the situation.

One of the scenarios about the presumed kidnapping is that the five are being held in connection with the extradition from Prague of Lebanese citizen Ali Fahad, who together with two others is wanted by US authorities on suspicion that they planned to sell drugs and weapons to US agents posing as member of Columbia’s FARC resistance movement. The driver of the missing Czechs was reportedly Ali Fahad’s brother.

A Prague court ruled in September that the three could be sent to the states, arguing that there were satisfactory safeguards that the three would not be abused or tortured and could expect a fair trial.

Andor Šándor,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
Andor Šándor is a former member of the Czech military intelligence who is now a recognised expert on terrorism and security issues. He believes that the latest news has not come out by chance and is clearly linked to the court decision on extradition in Prague.

“The information published today in the newspaper is based on a leak of information from the mediator because it is hard to imagine that there are direct talks with the kidnappers. So if it was leaked, it must have some purpose why it was leaked. I don’t believe that it was done just like that. So the leak is here, and it is probably to test what the reaction of the judicial system would be. It is mentioned that the kidnappers would unhappy if Ali Fayad was extradited to the United States.

So this scenario that the kidnapping is connected with these ongoing legal proceedings about the extradition, you believe firmly in that?

“Correct, there may have been more reasons or causes for the kidnapping but this one is the most probable and I have kept saying that from the very beginning because the brother of Ali Fayad being part of the team that was kidnapped, that would just be a big coincidence to believe.

News out of Lebanon has been fairly sparse over the last weeks and months. What do you think that means, do you think that negotiations in some way are happening between the Czech authorities and the people holding the Czechs.

Photo: Czech Television
“Any negotiation with a kidnapper is a very tricky and very sensitive problem because you have to find some mediator who would be trusted by the kidnappers. And on the other hand you would have to be sure that what the kidnappers says is true. So you may ask for any proof that the kidnapped people are still alive. In this and any case of kidnapping and negotiation what is important is not the time in which you can manage the release. What is important is the end of the case so that the kidnappers will release the hostages and be given what they want.”