PRAGUE: The Czech government paid a $6-million (5.4-million-euro) ransom to secure the release last year of two women kidnapped in Pakistan, the Respekt weekly reports in its Monday edition.
Czech psychology students Hana Humpalova and Antonie Chrastecka, both 24 at the time, were seized by armed men in March 2013 in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, near the borders with Afghanistan and Iran.
The pair had entered from Iran as tourists and were escorted into Pakistan by a tribal policeman.
In a video released shortly after their kidnapping, the two young women had pleaded for the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, jailed in 2010 in the United States on charges of terrorist links.
After two years in captivity, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka announced the women’s release and return to Prague on March 28, 2015.
Negotiations with the kidnappers on the payment of a ransom were carried out by the Czech state’s security council, according to Respekt.
“The talks weren’t easy, but in the end, none of us wanted to assume responsibility for the death of two young girls,” the weekly quoted an anonymous participant in the negotiations as saying.
“The decision to hand over the ransom was taken unanimously,” the source added.
Government spokesperson Martin Ayrer told AFP that Sobotka “will not be commenting on this report”.
The Respekt report comes just days after five Czech men, who were kidnapped in Lebanon last July, were freed into the care of Lebanese security forces.
Their release appeared to be tied to the detention of a Lebanese man in Prague, with a Lebanese security official telling AFP: “The release of the five Czechs… is the final part of an exchange deal, (that) includes the release of the Lebanese detainee in Prague, Ali Taan Fayyad.”
That release, announced on February 2, received an indignant reaction from the US ambassador who said Prague’s actions would encourage “terrorists and criminals”.