Slovakia will not extradite Russian businessman facing charges at home

Courts have released Valentin Vinogradov from prison. He is likely to seek asylum in Slovakia.

Valentin VinogradovValentin Vinogradov (Source: Sme - Marko Erd)

The court ruled to release Russian businessman Valentin Vinogradov from prison. The ruling came after Justice Minister Gábor Gál announced that Slovakia would not extradite the man to Russia, the Denník N daily reported.

Doubts about fair trial

Minister Gál said on Friday that there would be no extradition. He argued that Vinogradov might not get a fair trial in Russia.

The ministry spokesperson Zuzana Drobová cited concerns that the criminal prosecution in Russia "did not adhere to, or would not adhere to, the principles of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms" in the official statement, as quoted by the Sme daily.

Related articleNAKA detained Russian businessman Vinogradov Read more 

The Slovak police detained Vinogradov in July 2018 at a horse race in Šamorín, based on an international arrest warrant. It pertained to accusations of real estate fraud filed by two Russian oligarchs in 2016.

Likely to seek asylum

Vinogradov is thus likely to seek asylum in Slovakia as a form of protection from further attempts to get him back to Russia.

The businessman alleges that the accusations followed his testimonies about corruption among top Russian politicians, Sme wrote. Vinogradov spoke about a hundred-of-millions-worth bribe between the oligarchs and the Russian government in a sale of a share in a Ukrainian steelmaker.

Vinogradov spent almost one year in the Leopoldov prison in Slovakia.

A breakthrough decision

Minister Gál's decision not to extradite is a breakthrough moment in the Slovak context, director of the Human Rights League non-governmental organisation Zuzana Števulová wrote in her opinion piece for the Sme daily.

While for other EU countries it is relatively usual to provide a home to prominent dissidents from various regimes, Slovakia has avoided providing such help so far, especially for persons who have been in conflict with the regime in Russia.

Related articleSlovakia has extradited Yandiev to Russia Read more 

By deciding not to extradite due to concerns about Russian authorities' adherence to the principles of the Human Rights Convention, and concerns that Vinogradov might face persecution for his political opinions in Russia, Minister Gal de facto admitted Vinogradov is a refugee, "because a reasoning formulated in this way is a relevant reason for granting asylum under the Slovak law".

Stevulova, however, noted that the decision about asylum is made by the Interior Ministry.

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