A Czech court Tuesday ruled Prague can extradite a Russian citizen sought by the U.S. for cyberattacks on social networks and also by his native Russia on fraud charges.
Yevgeni Nikulin, who alleges FBI agents linked him to attacks on the U.S. Democratic Party, immediately filed an appeal against the verdict, sending the case to the Czech High Court.
“The Prague municipal court has ruled that Mr. Nikulin can be extradited to either country,” said court spokeswoman Marketa Puci.
The hearing took place at a Prague prison where the 29-year-old suspect is being held.
Nikulin lodged a complaint against the part of the verdict that said he can be extradited to the United States, she added. Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan will make the final decision on the extradition, Puci said.
“It will now go to the High Court in Prague, and the final word is up to the justice minister who will decide to which country he will be extradited or whether he’ll be extradited at all,” she said.
Czech police, acting in a joint operation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), arrested Nikulin in Prague last October.
The arrest came as Washington formally accused the Russian government of trying to “interfere” in the 2016 presidential election through hacking. The Kremlin has dismissed those charges.
Moscow immediately accused Washington of harassing its citizens and vowed to fight Nikulin’s extradition.
It then issued a separate arrest warrant for him over theft from the WebMoney settlement system.
The U.S. charged Nikulin with hacking into social networks LinkedIn and Formspring and into the file hosting service Dropbox, said Nikulin’s lawyer Martin Sadilek.
He also said Nikulin alleged FBI investigators had tried in November 2016 and then again in February to persuade him to confess to cyberattacks on the U.S. Democratic Party.
“First it was an unknown English-speaking man who questioned him and allegedly called someone named Jeffrey.
“On February 7, in the official presence of (U.S.) officials, it was allegedly (FBI agent) Jeffrey Miller who questioned him,” Sadilek said.