By George Psyllides
A RUSSIAN journalist held in Cyprus on an international arrest warrant issued by Russia is being persecuted because of his political beliefs, his lawyer said on Wednesday, and he must be sent back to Lithuania, his first point of entry into the European Union.
Nekrasov, a young Russian opposition journalist, was arrested at Larnaca airport on July 15 after his arrival from Lithuania.
He came to the island for a short holiday not knowing there was an international arrest warrant against him.
Nekrasov, who has applied for asylum, is due to appear in court on August 13, when a judge will begin considering Russia’s extradition request.
However, his lawyer, Nicoletta Charalambidou, said that Cyprus was obliged to implement the Dublin Regulation, which establishes the member state responsible for the examination of the asylum application.
The criteria for establishing responsibility run, in hierarchical order, from family considerations, to recent possession of visa or residence permit in a member state, to whether the applicant has entered EU irregularly, or regularly.
“We think the application must be examined by Lithuania,” she told the Cyprus Mail.
Though Nekrasov had not applied for asylum in Lithuania, that country had granted him a residence permit for a year and he was planning to apply for asylum.
Cyprus must now inform the Lithuanian authorities that the journalist was their responsibility, his lawyer said.
Charalambidou spoke to Nekrasov on Wednesday and she said she had been told that the asylum service was scheduled to meet him on Thursday.
She said she was in touch with his lawyers in Russia.
“We think there is no case against him,” she said. “He is persecuted because of his political beliefs.”
Reporters Without Borders have called for Nekrasov’s immediate release, saying he faced a possible 15-year jail sentence if extradited to Russia.
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 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.