The Czech refusal to extradite two alleged arms dealers to the United States drew a "shocked" response from the US Embassy on Thursday, which according to lawyer and former top court justice Jiří Vyvadil was a good day for Czech sovereignty.
The Czech government officially declined to link the extradition refusal to the freeing of five Czech hostages in Lebanon. The alleged release was done in exchange for the freedom of a Ukrainian citizen of Lebanese descent and one citizen of Cote d'Ivoire.
"I must say that yesterday was a very good day for Czech sovereignty! Even if Prague's refusal to the US was a forced measure, on the condition of the liberation of five of our countrymen in Lebanon," Jiří Vyvadil told Sputnik Czech Republic.
The United States itself is alleged to have engaged in arms deals in exchange for American hostages, most famously, the Iran-Contra affair, in which US officials are said to have smuggled arms to Iran after the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis.
"We are dismayed by the Czech Government’s decision to release Ali Fayad and Khalid El Merebi. <…> There is no justification for the release of these dangerous individuals, which deals a blow to the cooperative relationship of our two countries’ law enforcement agencies," the US Embassy in Prague said in a statement.
According to Vyvadil, the reaction was unjustified, particularly the ambassador's words that he was "shocked" by the release. US Ambassador to Prague Andrew Schapiro was previously banned from the country's presidential residence after telling President Milos Zeman to not visit Moscow for Victory Day celebrations in 2015. According to Vyvadi, Schapiro is a career disaster.
"He is, I think, the worst ambassador the United States has ever sent us, to the Czech Republic, and even Czechoslovakia. His agitated reaction to the decision of the Czech Republic's justice minister and his words that he was "shocked" are out of place for such a level diplomat. But, I confess, I was personally very satisfied by them," Vyvadil told Sputnik Czech Republic.
The decision to not extradite the two men was ultimately made by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who previously acted against the course of largely titular President Zeman. The growing popularity of Zeman, who previously joked about assassinating Sobotka, has impacted discourse in the otherwise pro-US government of the Czech Republic.