The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed it will do everything in its power to help Petr Jašek, a Christian missionary who was arrested in Sudan in late 2015 and on Sunday was sentenced to 20 years in prison on spying and other charges. The ministry sees the case against the Czech as unfounded and said that it will work towards trying to secure his release.
According to the Czech Foreign Ministry but also the organisation Release International, Petr Jašek, 52, was in Sudan in December 2015 primarily as a missionary and to help local Christians. Release International, has written that Jašek did little more than show compassion for a Sudanese student who had been badly burnt in a demonstration, allegedly securing funds to go towards medical bills. That help, saw Mr Jašek charged with spying and conspiring against the state; three Africans were also detained and charged in the case.
On Sunday, a Sudanese court found the Czech national guilty on all counts and handed him a stiff sentence of 20 years behind bars - raising major concerns at home. In a statement, the Czech Foreign Ministry said officials would immediately pursue high-level talks with the aim of securing the Czech’s release. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said this on Monday morning:
“If necessary – and if appropriate – I am ready to travel [to Sudan] within the next few days.”
Some questioned what could be done for Mr Jašek after the sentence had been handed down, with the caveat that many details about the case remain unclear or unknown. Vladimír Klíma is an expert on Africa and a former ambassador to Ghana:
“I would like to know how the appeals process works and what his legal options are. [As for whether he could have committed any wrongdoing] while I don’t know him personally, I imagine he is someone who is probably idealistic.
“Because he is not from there, he may have underestimated the kind of regime they have, with a strong religious focus. Because he is a Christian that probably doesn’t invite trust from local bureaus. And because of the anti-Western and anti-Christian atmosphere there, he may have ended up in the whole thing by accident.”
Reports said Mr Jašek was in relatively good physical and mental condition, but Sunday’s decision will obviously have been a blow. The Foreign Ministry has said it will release more information in the coming days about how it hopes to get him home.