A Sri Lankan man who allegedly experienced torture at home and arrived in Prague late last year to seek asylum has ended in a Czech prison, sentenced for abusing another person’s passport, the daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) reported.
The 28-year-old man was arrested by the Czech police and was convicted and is in the Prague-Pankrac prison, HN writes.
“He was punished for having arrived using a passport of another man, an Indian. He also used a forged Schengen entry stamp. However, from the beginning he has made it clear that he is a refugee and wants to apply for asylum,” V.M.’s lawyer Eva Hola is quoted as saying.
According to lawyers, it is extremely tough to imprison a man for using another person’s passport and having a single faked stamp, mainly if he is a refugee who most probably experienced torture in his homeland, HN writes.
“A prison sentence is definitely inappropriate in this case. We dealt with a similar case in the past, when a Sri Lankan man was only sentenced to three months, a period identical with the time he spent in custody before the trial,” Hola said.
The judge, in her verdict, said V.M. forged his documents with a clear intention to reach France. “In this context, his assertion about his alleged persecution looks very untrustworthy. If he really had faced persecution, he would have presented his genuine identity at the Czech customs checks,” the judge said.
However, Hana Frankova, lawyer from the Czech Organisation for Aid to Refugees (OPU), said V.M.’s story is quite trustworthy.
“We have enough evidence to trust him…He repeatedly presents details that cannot be known to anyone except those who experienced such situations. Moreover, his testimony corresponds to the testimonies of other people coming from the Sri Lanka region,” said Hola.
Frankova and Hola said V.M. had suffered due to the persisting tension between the Sinhalese Buddhist majority and the Tamil Hindu minority, which previously resulted in a 25-year-long civil war that ended in Sri Lanka in 2009.
Even after the war, the government troops continued torturing and raping V.M., also due to his sister who cooperated with the Tamil Tigers radical group.
V.M. finally succeeded in leaving Sri Lanka using an Indian passport that a friend provided for him, HN writes.
V.M. applied for Czech asylum immediately after arriving at the Prague airport, but the police ignored his request and no one dealt with his life story. “Finally he could apply for asylum from prison in March, with our assistance,” Hola said.
According to Frankova, this is not the only case when the Czech police ignored a foreigner’s application for asylum.
“This is an everlasting problem. We know about similar cases of a family from Azerbaijan and a man from Congo,” she said.
The Czech Foreigner Police deny any wrongdoing. They insist that V.M. did not apply for asylum at the airport, not even after a Tamil interpreter was invited.
It is difficult to solve the dispute as neither impartial witnesses nor a police recorded interview with V.M. exist, the daily writes.
After completing his prison service, V.M. was to be expelled from the Czech Republic, according to the court verdict, but he may further stay in detention until his asylum request is decided on, Hola said.
The asylum proceedings may take many months or even years, she said.
HN reporters recently applied for being permitted to visit V.M. in prison, but the prison director Petr Suk rejected the application, the daily writes. (Colombo Gazette)