Czech top court delays alleged Russian hacker extradition

FILE - In this file photo taken on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in Prague, Czech Republic, a prison guards walks outside a courtroom during an appeal by Yevgeniy Nikulin from Russia who faces charges of hacking computers of American companies. The Czech Republic’s top court says that the country’s justice minister cannot rule in the extradition case of an alleged Russian hacker until it deals with his complaint. In a decision that was made available Tuesday, March 13, 2018 the Constitutional Court says it will rule about the complaint filed by Yevgeniy Nikulin soon after it receives all necessary documents. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic's top court said Tuesday it has delayed the extradition of an alleged Russian hacker until it deals with a last-ditch complaint filed by him.

It means that the justice minister can't finalize Yevgeniy Nikulin's extradition until the Constitutional Court rules on the matter.

Nikulin has exhausted all appeals, but his lawyers presented a final complaint to the court in a bid to postpone his extradition to either the U.S. or Russia. The contents of the complaint weren't made public, but Nikulin's defense has previously said that appeals court judges were biased.

Czech authorities arrested Nikulin in Prague in cooperation with the FBI in October 2016. He is accused by U.S. prosecutors of hacking computers at Silicon Valley firms including LinkedIn and Dropbox in 2012 and the U.S. wanted him extradited to face a trial there.

Moscow also wants him extradited on a separate charge of internet theft in 2009.

Both countries submitted their extradition requests on the same date.

Nikulin denies he's a hacker. His defense attorney claimed his case was politically motivated in the U.S.

Czech courts ruled that both extradition requests meet the necessary legal conditions, leaving the final decision to Justice Minister Robert Pelikan.

Earlier in March, Pelikan told the lower house of Parliament that Czech pro-Russian President Milos Zeman "repeatedly" asked him to allow Nikulin's extradition to Russia. Zeman has no say in that decision. The presidential office didn't comment.

Pelikan said that among other things, the seriousness of the crime Nikulin was charged with in the U.S. and Russia will play a role in his decision.

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