Prague court sends Russian citizen wanted by Ukraine to detention pending extradition decision
The Prague City Court today sentenced Russian detainee Alexander Frančetti to pre-trial detention. The man in it will wait for the outcome of his extradition proceedings in Ukraine. Frančetti’s lawyer, Jan Švarc, told reporters after the detention session that Ukraine’s request for extradition was politically motivated and had nothing to do with criminal activity. According to earlier information from the iROZHLAS portal, the Russian has in the past joined the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
“The court concluded that the conditions for pre-trial detention are met because there is a risk of absconding,” said Adam Wenig, a spokesman for the court, for two hours.
“Pre-trial detention is common in extradition proceedings. It rarely happens that a client is released. Let’s hope that the court in the next extradition proceedings will not succumb to that politicization,” said lawyer Švarc. Franetti, as he left the courtroom, said words about “fascism” before being taken away by an armed escort.
Franteti faces two to eight years in prison in Ukraine for membership in a paramilitary organization. According to Švarc, however, he would also be subjected to torture and he would be in danger of death. “He was not in any paramilitary organization, he only co-organized the defense of Sevastopol at a time when there was de facto anarchy and various militias were infiltrating there,” the lawyer said. He lodged a complaint against the detention, which will be dealt with by the Prague High Court.
Franchetti was detained by police at Prague Airport on Sunday on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by Kiev. In addition to a lawyer and an interpreter, several of his relatives and acquaintances were waiting for the man in court today, who expressed his support in Russian in a low voice. They had to stay in the hallway because detention meetings are always closed to the public.
According to previous information from the iROZHLAS portalFrančetti was the head of one of the paramilitary formations that actively participated in the annexation of Crimea in 2014. In the vicinity of Sevastopol, he led the intelligence group North Wind, which was to protect the city from possible attacks. According to his statement, he arrived in Sevastopol two days before the outbreak of the conflict, ie on 25 February 2014. He also confirmed that his group had cooperated with the command of the Russian naval fleet. The server also wrote that Frančetti has had a permanent residence in Prague since 2000, where he makes a living as a fitness trainer and also runs a business. He lives alternately in the capital of the Czech Republic and in the Crimea.
Frančetti’s nineteen-year-old daughter Dia arrived in court today. When asked by ČTK, she stated that her father came to the Czech Republic from Russia about ten days ago, in order to see her after two years. According to her, he had not traveled before due to restrictions associated with the covidu-19 pandemic. Police detained him as he was about to fly to Russia again.
“I don’t know much about politics and I have no information about it,” the girl said when asked if she knew anything about her father’s involvement in the events in Crimea. “All I know is that he was in the woods with other people. They were just standing there, no one was armed. They were watching, waiting, watching, nothing illegal was happening in the Crimea. He had a girlfriend there who had a twelve-year-old child, he basically had it there. “He did everything he could to protect them so that no one would come after them,” she continued. She added that in Russia they have her father a hero who helped the government.
The admissibility of Frančetti’s extradition to Ukraine – ie the fulfillment of all legal conditions – will be decided first by the Prague City Court, and then by the High Court in Prague on any complaints. After that, it will be up to the Czech Minister of Justice to agree with the extradition or not.
Švarc noted today that no deadlines are prescribed for the Minister’s decision, and recalled in this connection the length of the case of the Lebanese arms dealer Ali Fayyad, whom he also represented. Fajád was in custody in the Czech Republic from April 2014 to February 2016 on the basis of a US arrest warrant. He was only released in connection with the abduction of five Czechs in Lebanon, while one of the abducted was a lawyer Švarc.
Moscow is asking Prague for detailed information on Franchetti’s detention. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharov said Russian diplomacy had sent a note to the Czech Foreign Ministry and warned the Czech ambassador to Russia that the Czech Republic’s “destructive” policy towards Russia would lead to further deterioration in relations and “will not do without Russia’s response.” The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the case had no connection with Czech-Russian relations and that the Russian embassy in Prague had been informed of the detention.