23-11-2003

In this week's Mailbox, we answer your letters and e-mails about Czech-Russian relations, the fate of a man who has been living at Prague airport for three months now and of course the Radio Prague competition.

We begin with a question from Henry Ibsen, who listens to us in Spain. He asks:

"In your press review you mentioned that your ministry of interior arranges meetings between refugees and representatives of the country they are fleeing from without the consent of these refugees. You specifically talked about a refugee from Iran who was made to meet with Iranian embassy officials. Is he the man who is staying at your airport? Can you tell us more about this case?"

The truth is that we do not know that much more about it. The Interior Ministry is not talking to the press about the case and what we hear and read often doesn't make sense. But the weekly Respekt featured quite an extensive article, which said that the man in question, Mr A. Yadollahi, had already come to the Czech Republic once before in 1999. He and his brother were persecuted in Iran for taking part in a student demonstration. So, in 1999, they decided to flee to the Czech Republic to seek asylum. His brother married a Czech woman and has been in the country ever since. Mr Yadollahi, Respekt says, was assured by a friend that he would be safe and decided to go back to Iran. Upon arrival, he was arrested and spent two years in prison.

He decided to run away for the second time, when he was charged with eleven more crimes he says he did not commit. He destroyed his passport during the flight to Prague for fear of being sent back home and on August 18, applied for political asylum. He was rejected. In order to be sent back home as soon as possible, a meeting was organised with Iranian Embassy officials without his consent, to get him new documents. On September 4th, he was taken to the transit area at Prague's Ruzyne airport to be flown back. But the plane was full and he made use of the time to appeal against the rejection. He has been living in the transit area for the past three months, waiting for his appeal to be dealt with in court.

 

Mr Subir Basu tunes in to us in Calcutta, India, and wrote:

"If possible, can you give me information on the Nusle Bridge in Prague? I heard about this bridge in one of the Insight Central Europe programs."

Now, for those of you who do not know about Insight Central Europe, ICE, it is an English language current affairs magazine programme that is produced weekly by Radio Austria International. The reports and mini-features are provided by Radio Polonia, Hungarian Radio, Radio Slovakia International, Radio Slovenia, and Radio Prague. We often have listeners such as Mr Basu write in to ask about a transcript of an ICE report or find out about its author. Well, the programme's website is very useful and can be found at www.incentraleurope.com/ice. Besides extensive information on the Nusle Bridge, you find many other interesting stories concerning Central Europe.

 

Mr Che Clark from Bloomington, Indiana, e-mailed us asking:

"I am researching Czech-Russian Relations and I am curious about the motivations behind Klaus' meeting with Putin. I hope to determine what the Czech people have to say about it, why was there a meeting?"

It appears that the meeting between Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that took place on November 1 was much more innocent than some suspect. For ten years, there has been no official meeting between the heads of both states for quite obvious reasons. Furthermore, former Czech president Vaclav Havel was so critical of the war in Chechnya, that Moscow took him to be on the side of the enemy.

But with the Czech Republic a NATO member and just months away from becoming part of the European Union, Mr Klaus felt the time had come "for rational dialogue", as he put it. After the meeting, they both pronounced that Czech-Russian relations were blossoming and would see much more co-operation in the future.

As far as the ordinary Czech is concerned, there was little reaction to the meeting. It's been fourteen years since the country broke away from Moscow and people have moved on. Both countries have changed since then, and Czechs see no reason why there should not be friendly political relations.

 

And finally, don't forget about Radio Prague's ongoing listeners' competition. The question for the rest of this month and next month is "What building close to Prague's Old Town Square is connected with cubism?" You have until the end of December to get your entries to us and those of you having difficulty finding the answer should tune into Radio Prague regularly because we will be featuring the building in one of our programmes in the future.

23-11-2003