By George Psyllides
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou has asked his interior ministry counterpart to expedite examination of an application for asylum filed by a Russian journalist held in Cyprus on an international arrest warrant issued by Russia.
Andrey Nekrasov, a young Russian opposition journalist, was arrested at Larnaca airport on July 15 after his arrival from Latvia.
Nekrasov, who has requested asylum, has been on a hunger strike since July 22.
He is due to appear in court on August 13, when a judge will begin considering Russia’s extradition request.
According to the law, the extradition request must be heard within 40 days from the day he was arrested.
By Friday, the necessary paperwork had not been received by Cypriot authorities.
Nicolaou confirmed a report that he has asked Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos to expedite the asylum application.
“The application must be examined before the extradition hearing,” he told the Sunday Mail on Saturday.
Reporters Without Borders have called for Nekrasov’s immediate release, saying he faced a possible 15-year jail sentence if extradited to Russia.
According to the organisation, Nekrasov fled his home town in the Russian Urals in March, to escape imminent imprisonment in connection with his journalism and activism.
“There is no doubt that this journalist will be denied the right to due process if extradited. We urge the Cypriot authorities not to become the accomplices of Russian despotism and instead to release Nekrasov without delay and to examine his asylum request,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
Russia is ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
The affair will likely prove yet another headache for Cyprus.
In 2010, the court in Larnaca released on bail the suspected paymaster for a Russian spy ring operating in the USA. He promptly disappeared.
Christopher Metsos was wanted in the United States on charges that he supplied money to a spy ring that allegedly operated under deep cover in America’s suburbs.