A court in Slovakia has agreed to release a jailed Kamloops professor on bail, but David Scheffel will remain behind bars for up to three more weeks while the court considers an appeal from the prosecutor.
Scheffel, a Thompson Rivers University anthropology professor, has been in a cell in Slovakia since last November, facing charges of arms trafficking, sexual violence and child pornography.
Since his arrest, many academics and non-government organizations have spoken out in support of Scheffel, who has spent 16 years researching social issues within the Roma population of Slovakia.
At a hearing on July 22, Scheffel spent three hours explaining the history and goals of anthropology and how his work with the Roma fit with it. In particular, he had been researching social challenges the Roma experience that lead to juvenile prostitution.
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During a court hearing on Monday in Presov, in eastern Slovakia, a court agreed to release Scheffel on conditions including he remain in the country and report to authorities every two weeks. But his release remains in limbo pending a decision on the prosecutor’s appeal.
In an emailed update, Scheffel said he argued that dismissing juvenile prostitution is wrong and continues to stigmatize the Roma people as “unadaptables,” which he said is the attitude of many Slovaks toward them. Ignoring it also fails to deal with the issues of racism, oppression and poverty within the Roma community, he said.
Scheffel said photographs from his laptop that were being viewed as child pornography were of nude and semi-nude Roma children, what he called “a standard scene captured by many visitors to these impoverished and chaotic communities.”
He said other pictures the prosecution referenced included one of his youngest daughter after her delivery at Royal Inland Hospital.
Scheffel’s research data, including his laptop, have not been returned to him or his new lawyer to assist with his defence. He is now being represented by a former Slovak deputy prime minister and minister of justice.
In his emailed update, Scheffel said he had been visited by two representatives of the Slovak government’s human-rights office, a response to his complaint to the Council of Europe about his incarceration. He said it was his first positive experience with Slovak officials, who spent several hours discussing his grievances and later met with prison managers and the warden.