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CAUT calls for Canada’s intervention in professor’s unjust detention in Slovakia

(Ottawa – May 21, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has written to Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau to voice grave concerns over the situation of Dr. David Scheffel, an anthropology professor imprisoned in Slovakia over his research on the marginalized Roma population there.

“While in detention, he was subjected to harsh conditions while also being denied access to the research materials necessary to mount a fair and full defense,” CAUT’s letter describes. “During his trial, the presiding judge took into consideration only the testimonies provided without the presence of Dr. Scheffel’s lawyer…who was also not provided the opportunity for cross-examination.”

An anthropology professor for over 30 years at Thompson Rivers University in B.C., Scheffel was arrested in Prešov, Slovakia in 2017 and held until his conviction on sexual exploitation and child pornography charges last February. His lawyer believes the charges are likely an attempt to undercut Scheffel’s advocacy for Slovakia’s vulnerable Roma population. CAUT notes that Scheffel received full ethics clearance from his University to conduct this research.

CAUT is monitoring his imprisonment and has growing concerns since being informed that Scheffel contracted COVID-19 in prison.

“We call on your government to intervene to provide support to Dr. Scheffel, including petitioning the Slovakian government to grant conditional freedom while a reassessment of his case is underway, and to uphold international human rights and principles of academic freedom,” the letter concludes.