Prague officials: Palestinian embassy must move after blast
Published Saturday 04/01/2014 (updated) 05/01/2014 16:19
Photo taken on January 2, 2014 shows the residence of Palestine
ambassador, Jamal al-Jamal, in Prague. The Palestinian ambassador
to the Czech Republic to the Czech Republic died after an explosion at
his apartment in Prague on Jan. 1, 2014. (AFP Michal Cizek)
PRAGUE (AFP) -- The Prague district hosting the embassy of the Palestinian Authority wants it moved after the ambassador was killed in a mysterious New Year's day explosion on the premises, local officials said Friday.
"We asked the Czech foreign ministry for the embassy to be moved out of our district," Petr Hejl, senior councilor of Prague's Suchdol district told AFP.
"The district feels betrayed by the behavior of diplomats who kept weapons and explosives at the embassy, violating Czech and international law," he added.
Police said they found unregistered weapons at the Palestinian diplomatic mission, but would not elaborate on the type or quantity of illegal arms.
A banner saying "We like (the) city, not weapons" was strung on the embassy's fence Friday.
"We understand the fears of Suchdol residents," Czech foreign ministry spokeswoman Johana Gohova told AFP Friday. The ministry would "look into it," she added.
A ministry statement also said Friday that Czech and Palestinian authorities had agreed to cooperate fully in the probe "so that mutual relations between the Czech Republic and Palestine are not damaged in any way."
Palestinian ambassador to Prague Jamal al-Jamal, 56, suffered lethal injuries to his head, chest and stomach in a mysterious blast on Wednesday at the new Palestinian residence and embassy complex when he was handling a safe.
Police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova told AFP Czech and Palestinian investigators have been working on the premise that "an explosive system was placed in the safe."
"The question is what was it doing there," she said, while denying a media report that the device was a bomb.
Czech police have ruled out terrorism and homicide, while Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki described the blast as "an accident."
"The safe was old, and it was made in a way that if it is being opened in a wrong way, an explosive device attached to its door would explode, and this is what happened."
He told Voice of Palestine radio that Jamal had opened the safe "without consulting with anyone" and that no crime had been committed.
But Palestinian embassy spokesman Nabil al-Fahel told AFP the safe was in almost everyday use and "according to our information there was no built-in anti-theft system."
The Czech Republic is a staunch ally of Israel but Prague has hosted a PLO mission since 1981, when it was the capital of Czechoslovakia.
The mission became an embassy in 1988, but in November 2012 the Czech Republic was one of nine countries which voted against the UN General Assembly move to upgrade the Palestinians' status to a non-member observer state.