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Qatari prince sues Czech Republic

The case raises questions about separation of powers in the Czech judicial system.

Marie Benesova was state prosecutor when Qatari Prince Hamad bin Abdulla Thani Al-Thani was convicted of pimping, sexually abusing and corrupting 16 minors in 2005. She is now the shadow justice minister for the social democrats. (Bruce Konviser/GlobalPost)

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — A Qatari prince is suing the Czech Republic for unlawful detention despite having been convicted of sexually assaulting more than a dozen underage girls.

The 2005 criminal case provoked a political firestorm and raised serious questions about the Czech Republic's commitment to the rule of law as the justice minister clashed openly with the state prosecutor. The former wanted the prince to be released from prison and sent back to Qatar, ostensibly to stand trial, while the latter viewed him as a sexual predator and insisted he be kept in detention and tried where the crimes had been committed.

“He was working here; his company was seated here; his victims were here. And the Prince of Qatar was personally here in the Czech Republic at the time when he was convicted,” said Marie Benesova, who was the state prosecutor at the time.

But Benesova lost her battle. The justice minister, with the eventual backing of a high court ruling, interceded and sent Prince Hamad bin Abdulla Thani Al-Thani back to Qatar. His extradition came after he was convicted of pimping, sexually abusing and corrupting 16 minors, according to the case file.

Now the prince's civil suit has again raised the question of whether the justice ministry's interference in the case violated the separation of powers enshrined in the country's constitution.

“The division of power between the executive and the judiciary is stipulated in Constitutional Law,” wrote Pavel Nemec, justice minister at the time of Al-Thani's extradition. “Our constitution is correct [it] complies with EU legislation and the decision of the ministry of justice of the extradition did not compromise the independence of the judicial system.”

Even though Al-Thani was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, the conviction is considered non-binding until it is affirmed on appeal. But he and Nemec believe the trial wasn't merely non-binding, but illegal.

Nemec shares Al-Thani's view that the entire trial should never have occurred.

“His detention and the following trial were illegal in the context of that decision,” Nemec wrote in an email, referring to his own decision that Al-Thani be sent back to Qatar.