Delhi/Prague - The international community of scientists has drafted a petition calling for a release of two Czech scientists jailed in an Indian prison.
Petr Švácha and Emil Kučera were arrested at the end of June for illegal bug collection. Over 800 scientists are said to have petitioned India's Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the West Bengal Chief Minister, urging for the release of the scientists on bail, as reported by Indian daily Hindu.
The scientists were collecting bug larvae in the Singalila National Park in West Bengal's Darjeeling district without the necessary authorization.
The scientists who call for their release on bail come from the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, the United States and India. Among the petitioners is also the Council of International Congress of Entomology, which is the most important body of professional entomologists.
Czech ambassador to India Hynek Kmoníček personally defended the two scientists who claim not having been aware of being in the national park.
Not among criminals, please
"Our ambassador gave his word that both scientists would stay in the country, should they be released on bail," Foreign Ministry Zuzana Opletalová confirmed the information to Aktuálně.cz.
According to Hindu daily, Czech Consul Jan Kreuter said there was no reason why they should be jailed for 20 days along with serious criminals.
Dr. Petr Švácha, is an internationally renowned senior entomologist having published since 1985. He is a member of the Czech Entomology Institute at the Czech Academy of Sciences, while Emil Kučera is an amateur entomologist - enthusiast.
The Indian authorities, however, rejected the first call for the scientists´ release on bail. They are to stand a hearing on 21 July.
The jailed men are accused of breaching the Wildlife Protection Act. Should they be found guilty, they face up to 7 years in prison.
Both men claim they were not familiar with India's Wildlife Protection Act. They alleged to have collected the bug and butterfly larvae only for research.
The Czech Republic became a signatory country of the Convention on Biodiversity in 1992, which stipulates that authorization is needed for collecting insects in national sanctuaries.
Petr Švácha and Petr Kučera claim there was some logging going on and cows were feeding on grass nearby, so they did not notice they happened to be in a national park.
Švácha is said to have collected specimens needed to complete the fourth volume of his book on 'Identification key to the larvae of longhorn beetles."
According to the Hindu online newspaper, "the State's wildlife authorities, however, are not too sure". They are aware of Švácha´s good reputation as a respected entomologist but Petr Kučera´s website "aroused suspicion" among the authorities. It became apparent Kučera has visited the national park before.
The Singalila National Park is part of East Himalayas that is rich in biodiversity.
You can see the petition here.