MOSCOW – The father of a Russian man detained by the US on hacking charges warned Friday his son would die without medical help, raising the stakes in the latest spat between Moscow and Washington.
Russia has accused US authorities of abducting Roman Seleznev in the Maldives and secretly transporting him to the American territory of Guam in a case that further piqued Kremlin’s anger amid a showdown over Ukraine.
He faces up to 30 years in prison for hacking into US retail computer systems and installing malicious software to steal credit card numbers between October 2009 and February 2011.
The man’s father, Valery Seleznev, told a news conference that his son was disabled and could die within days if he did not receive regular medical treatment.
Roman Seleznev suffered brain damage in a bomb attack in Morocco in 2011 and has problems with motor skills, according to his family.
“If he does not take it (medication) for three, five days at the most then… he would die and die very soon,” Valery Seleznev said.
“One of the goals is to let him rot there.”
Roman Seleznev and his accomplices are accused of stealing over 200,000 credit card numbers in a scheme that cost banks more than $1.1 million (800,000 euros), according to a 2011 indictment.
If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison on bank fraud charges and additional jail time for other charges.
According to US officials, the suspect, who prior to his arrest lived in the Pacific city of Vladivostok, was known under the moniker “Track2” in the hacker underground.
‘Sticking to his guns’
Valery Seleznev, a lawmaker in the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, said US officials were pressuring his son to incriminate himself.
He dismissed the charges, saying his son was not a hacker and knew “nothing about these new technologies”.
“My son is sticking to his guns,” he said.
“Right now they are piling pressure on him.”
“The lawyers describe the (current) prison as one of — and maybe the worst — prison under US jurisdiction,” he said, adding that officials had promised to transfer him to Seattle if he admitted guilt.
The Russian foreign ministry has accused Washington of abducting one of its nationals in what it described as a “hostile” act.
The ministry’s human rights envoy, Konstantin Dolgov, said a Russian diplomat was expected to visit Roman Seleznev in prison either Sunday or Monday.
Russia has said Roman’s “abduction” is the latest in a string of unlawful arrests of its nationals by the US, including so-called “merchant of death” Viktor Bout, who was sentenced to 25 years over arms trafficking.
A cybercrime expert, who spoke to Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper on condition of anonymity, suggested that the US Secret Service may be behind the suspect’s detention.
He said several recently arrested suspected cyber criminals may be accused of “being members of a group that is being run from Moscow”.
Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen has said his government acted alone in expelling the suspect, stressing it was responding to an Interpol arrest warrant.
“This is a monstrous lie,” Valery Seleznev told reporters, pointing out that the people who detained his son in the Male airport wore shorts and backpacks, posing as tourists.
“Do you believe that this operation was conducted by the Maldivian security services?”