Saturday, 27 May 2017

Court adjourns hearing on Russian hacker's extradition

ČTK |
12 May 2017

Prague, May 11 (CTK) - The Prague Municipal Court adjourned the hearing on the U.S. and Russian requests for the extradition of Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin until May 30 due to his defence lawyer's objection yesterday.

Nikulin's defence counsel Martin Sadilek claims that he has not received the proposal for his client's extradition to the United States.

Judge Jaroslav Pytloun said he first set the date of the next hearing for May 22 but then he postponed it by one more week at the request of Nikulin's lawyers.

The court deals with the admissibility of Nikulin's extradition for which both the United States and Russia asked on the same day. For security reasons, the hearing took place in the Pankrac prison and not in a court building.

State attorney Renata Rychnovska says she cannot see any obstruction in the defence lawyer's statement and that the defence has the right to raise objections.

Nikulin's parents and the Russian consul in Prague attended the hearing today.

The Czech police in cooperation with the U.S. FBI detained Nikulin in a Prague hotel last October. He was taken into custody.

The United States seeks Nikulin's extradition on suspicion of having attacked the Linkedin social network and the servers of the Dropbox and Formspring companies for which he faces up to 30 years in prison and a one-million-dollar fine.

According to the U.S. investigators, Nikulin used the Internet to hack computers of the Linkedin professional network on March 3-4, 2012 and he gained passwords of their users with the aim to either sell the stolen data or use them for an unauthorised access to further computers and accounts.

Russia issued a warrant for Nikulin's arrest on suspicion of an Internet theft of finances amounting $3,450.

Moscow said in the past it would do its utmost to prevent Nikulin's extradition to the United States.

According to the Prague Municipal State Attorney's Office, both extradition requests are in compliance with law.

Nikulin, 29, prefers being extradited to Russia.

His lawyer Sadilek said the accusations are based merely on the claims of FBI agents.

He said Nikulin pleads innocent and declares that he is no hacker. "He has never dealt with computers. As far as I know, his profession is a car mechanic. Cars have been his only hobby," Sadilek said.

He said the stay in a Czech custody prison is very hard for his client, especially due to the tightened security measures. "His yard time is limited. He is alone in the cell. It is very stressful for him. He is separated by plexiglass and bars when he has a visit," Sadilek said.

He said Nikulin wants to be extradited to neither of the two countries, but if it is unavoidable he prefers Russia, also because he has a small daughter there. "He is a Russian citizen, he speaks Russian. There is no doubt that he could defend himself better in his homeland," Sadilek said.

Moreover, Nikulin is facing a lower sentence in Russia. The state attorney writes that he may go to prison for up to ten years for each of the suspected crimes. But Sadilek said Nikulin might be sent to prison for up to 54 years in the USA because the sentences for individual crimes can be added up. In Russia, Nikulin might receive a sentence of maximum eight years behind bars, he said.

Sadilek said the extradition to the United States is inadmissible also because the punishment would be inadequate to the age and situation of his client and gravity of the crime. The state attorney's office did not take into account that both parents of Nikulin are seriously ill, he added.

The court can either decide that Nikulin's extradition to both countries is inadmissible or admit his extradition only to one of them or to both of them.

A complaint against the verdict can be filed with the Prague High Court.

The final say will be up to Justice Minister Robert Pelikan who can decide regardless of the court verdict.

Strict security measures accompanied the court proceedings today.

All participants in the hearing had to undergo security checks and leave their mobile phones, computers, cameras and other video equipment outside the courtroom, court spokeswoman Marketa Puci told CTK.

Along with Czech journalists, representatives of foreign media have registered for the event. They include Radio Free Europe, the AP U.S. press agency and British Reuters. Non-accredited journalists are not allowed to attend the court proceedings.

There were only ten seats for the public in the courtroom, seven of which were reserved for the media and the remaining three for Nikulin's family members or representatives of the Russian and U.S. embassies.

All seats for the media have been reserved, Puci said.

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