By George Psyllides
A RUSSIAN journalist held in Cyprus on an international arrest warrant issued by Russia should be transferred back to the first point of entry into the European Union, a lawyer said on Monday.
Nicos Clerides has spoken to Andrey Nekrasov and could be appointed as his legal representative.
Nekrasov, a young Russian opposition journalist, was arrested at Larnaca airport on July 15 after his arrival from Lithuania, not Latvia as previously reported.
Nekrasov, who requested asylum after his arrest, has been on a hunger strike.
He is due to appear in court on August 13, when a judge will begin considering Russia’s extradition request.
Clerides said Nekrasov had not come to Cyprus to seek political asylum.
“He came for a holiday for five-six days without knowing about the arrest warrant,” he told the Cyprus Mail.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told the Cyprus Mail last week that he had asked Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos to expedite examination the application.
“The application must be examined before the extradition hearing,” he told the Sunday Mail.
However, in Clerides’ view, Nekrasov should be sent back to Lithuania, his first point of entry into the EU.
Lithuania had granted him temporary residency pending an asylum application.
According to the Dublin Regulation, usually the responsible state is the one through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU.
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.
Reporters Without Borders said Nekrasov, from Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurt Republic was constantly hounded by authorities for his activities, which included involvement in campaigns, including a protest movement against evictions and a campaign to defend the rights of workers at the Izhmash factory.
The CEO of the factory filed a complaint accusing him of blackmail and extortion in 2013, at a time when he was writing about the workers’ demands.
He was initially questioned as a witness, but the FSB, the federal security service, placed him in police custody and tried to extract a confession, Reporters said.
As a result, he was now facing up to 15 years in prison.
In February, he was fined 30,000 roubles (€450) on a criminal defamation charge for linking a local official in the ruling United Russia party to a person of the same name with assets in the United States.
Fearing that this conviction would be used as an aggravating circumstance in the other case, Nekrasov fled the country.
In April, Udmurt’s supreme court upheld a court order to place him in pre-trial detention for failing to appear before judicial authorities.
Russia is ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.