A Russian journalist held in Cyprus on an international arrest warrant issued by Russia will be sent back to Lithuania, his first point of entry into the European Union, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said on Thursday.
“Based on the provisions of the Dublin Regulation and the European acquis communitaire, the interior minister has decided that Mr. (Andrey) Nekrasov should be returned to Lithuania, through which he had entered the EU,” a written statement said.
“His return procedure has already been launched on the instruction of the minister of interior.”
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, was due to appear in court on August 13 for an extradition hearing.
Examination of the asylum application showed that he entered the EU through Lithuania, which granted Nekrasov a residence permit valid until May 2016, the ministry statement said.
The Dublin Regulation 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.
Nekrasov fled his home town in the Russian Urals in March, to escape imminent imprisonment in connection with his journalism and activism, according to Reporters Without Borders.
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 USA.
Fearing that this conviction would be used as an aggravating circumstance in the other case, he fled the country.