Prague – A Czech court on Tuesday ruled Prague can extradite a Russian citizen sought by the US for alleged cyberattacks on social networks and also by his native Russia on fraud charges.
Suspect Yevgeni Nikulin, who alleges FBI agents linked him to attacks on the US Democratic Party, immediately filed an appeal against the verdict, sending the case to the Czech High Court.
“The Prague municipal court has ruled that Mr Nikulin can be extradited to either country,” court spokeswoman Marketa Puci told AFP.
The hearing took place at a Prague prison where the 29-year-old suspect is being held.
Nikulin lodged a complaint against the part of the verdict that says he can be extradited to the United States, she added. Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan will make the final decision on the extradition, Puci said.
“It will now go to the High Court in Prague, and the final word is up to the justice minister who will decide to which country he will be extradited or whether he’ll be extradited at all,” she told AFP.
Czech police, acting in a joint operation with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), arrested Nikulin in Prague last October.
The arrest came as Washington formally accused the Russian government of trying to “interfere” in the 2016 White House race through hacking, charges the Kremlin has dismissed.
Moscow immediately accused Washington of harassing its citizens and vowed to fight Nikulin’s extradition.
It then issued a separate arrest warrant for him over alleged theft from the WebMoney settlement system.
The US has charged Nikulin with hacking into social networks LinkedIn and Formspring and into the file hosting service Dropbox, Nikulin’s lawyer Martin Sadilek told AFP.
He also said Nikulin alleges that FBI investigators had tried in November 2016 and then again in February to persuade him to confess to cyberattacks on the US Democratic Party.
“First it was an unknown English-speaking man who questioned him and allegedly called someone named Jeffrey.
“On February 7, in the official presence of (US) officials, it was allegedly (FBI agent) Jeffrey Miller who questioned him,” Sadilek told AFP.
Last July, campaign officials for Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blamed Russia for an embarrassing leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee.
Russia has been accused of favoring Republican candidate Donald Trump — who has praised Putin and called for better ties with Moscow — over the more hawkish Clinton.