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Monday, November 1, 2021

The ridicule, the state did not help, says the family of a driver convicted of smuggling migrants

 The ridicule, the state did not help, says the family of a driver convicted of smuggling migrants:

Jiří Sagan's family perceives as unfair the judgment of a French court, which awarded a Czech truck driver two years in prison for smuggling migrants. According to them, the French court did not rule correctly. And he also sees a mistake on the part of the Czech authorities. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček will comment on the case in the second half of the week.
People in Prague demonstrated in support of a driver convicted of smuggling migrants (2:24) | video: iDNES.cz
It was the fifth of July 2018 when the Czech driver Jiří Sagan, working for the Spanish carrier Transmanolet, drove his car to the port of Calais and inspected it by French police officers. He knew the trip to England from France like the back of his hand and thought it would be a routine operation.

But this time everything was a little different. French police found 15 Iraqis in the refrigerated box of his truck.

I learned about what happened to Jirka directly from him. He called me to say that he had migrants in the trailer and that the French police accused him of belonging to the mafia, "recalled Gabriela Kotoučková, who has lived with Sagan for 24 years. They moved to Spain together in 2012, due to Jiří's work. "We all wanted to be together," Gabriela explains.

"He told me then that he would be convicted of torturing people and taking him for questioning. It was a terrible shock. We thought he would just write a report and release it normally. However, the reality is different and difficult to understand, "added her friend.

According to Kotoučková, migrants broke into the truck around half past one in the morning when Sagan was sleeping in the cab of the car. The Iraqis also said during the investigation that they entered the box without the driver's knowledge during his break in the parking lot, which is seventy kilometers from Calais.

At the time, Sagan ended up in custody and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in October last year. Last week, the appellate court tightened the sentence to two years in prison and a four-year ban on entering French territory.

The family will not get to him

"It's a mockery," Sagan's mother, Magdalena Hyková, commented on the final verdict. "If he really did, I'd say 'so what,' but like that? We hoped that if we presented all the documents, they would admit that he was not to blame and that he would let him go. That didn't happen, "she added.

"We see it as an injustice. Punishment surprised us all, we still hope it's all a bad dream, "added Sagan's girlfriend. She hadn't seen her boyfriend since his arrest last summer.

They did not even allow us a telephone conversation, nor did they send the package back, "said the woman. "Given my health and financial situation, I can't afford to travel to France," she added.

The Czech driver's partner has cancer and does not work. Because she lost her partner, she even had to stop her treatment. She doesn't have the money to continue paying for her treatment.

Although Gabina has not seen her boyfriend for several months, she is the main link for her parents and brother Sagan, who live in the Czech Republic. "It is impossible to contact him. Every time I asked, the answer was that he had forbidden visits and forbidden correspondence, "said his brother Tomáš Hyk.

The Czech authorities are more interested in the drug smuggler

The family agrees that the Czech authorities could have done more in this case. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made me angry only when it said that he was Slovak. He is not Slovak, he was born in Kladno, "the driver's mother shared her feelings.

She and Sagan's brother argued that in the case of Teresa H. facing charges of drug smuggling, the state was trying harder. Tomáš Hyk also recalled the case of two Czech girls, Hanča and Tonča, who were abducted in 2013 and in whose rescue the Czech Republic took an active part.

However, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously stated that it cannot intervene in this matter. The Ministry of Justice and the head of the department, Jan Kněžínek, also argued similarly.

It is not yet clear what will happen to the Czech driver. Lawyer Ladislav Drha said last week that there are now two options. "Either we will try to file a cassation complaint with the Court of Cassation in Paris, and the second, more practical option is to leave the process to trial and, conversely, we will try to get Mr Sagan out of prison conditionally.

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