Turkish court sentences Czechs to more than six years in prison
Two Czech nationals, Markéta Všelichová and Miroslav Farkas, have been sentenced to six years, three months, in prison by a Turkish court. The couple was accused of being part of the Kurdish militia YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist group. The two had said they were humanitarian workers who had aimed to create a field hospital near the Turkish-Iraqi border.
Ahead of their mission for the hospital last year, they apparently told their friend Janusz Konieczny of their plans; he defended the duo after their arrest, saying he did not think they had committed crimes such as smuggling weapons or YPG materials of which they had been accused. Nor did he think, as Turkey had maintained, that they had received military training. Here’s what he told Radio Prague last year:
“I would like to say that Markéta is not a member of YPG. I am not sure about Mirek, but Markéta Všelichová is not a member of YPG and they were both in safe places in Rojava, Syria. Their goal was to establish a field hospital there because they witnessed horrible things, many people died because they couldn’t get medical care.
“So they decided that they must establish a field hospital. They took crazy risks but they do not like to do nothing… Markéta is not a member of YPG, Mirek I don’t know, he sympathized with the YPG but it would be crazy if they tried to cross the border with YPG materials.”
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek responded to Wednesday’s ruling by calling it a “huge personal disappointment” and expressing hope in the appeals process and that a higher instance court would re-examine the facts and overrule the earlier verdict. In a statement, the ministry confirmed that the head of Czech diplomacy would contact his Turkish counterpart in the coming days about the case; the two Czechs, meanwhile, remain in custody and are expected to appeal.