Czechs say Polish man released after being held in Syria since 2015

PRAGUE (Reuters) - A Polish man was released and handed to the Polish ambassador in Lebanon on Monday after being held by Syrian authorities since late 2015, the Czech presidential office said.

Leszek Panek, 54, went missing on Dec. 10, 2015 in Syria.

The Czechs are among few nations who maintain diplomatic relations with Syria and have an embassy in Damascus. Czech diplomats negotiated the man’s release, the presidential office said in a statement.

“Thanks to successful Czech-Syrian negotiations, which took place in Prague and Damascus, Mr. Panek was found and an agreement reached on his release on humanitarian grounds,” the Czech statement said.

It said Panek was in “satisfactory” physical condition when released. He was taken from Syria to Beirut handed over to the Polish side at the Czech embassy in Beirut on Monday, it said.

Czech news website said Panek had been shot in the leg when being arrested in 2015. It showed photographs of a man with crutches who it said was Panek at the Polish embassy in Beirut.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka