A failure by Russian authorities to respond to the High Court’s concerns about prison conditions and fair trial rights in Russia has resulted in the immediate “termination” of an extradition request.
Igor Khatlamadzhiyev (47), with a last address at Victory of Revolution Prospect, Shakhty, in the Rostov Region, was wanted for a number of alleged thefts and robberies in Russia between November 1997 and February 1998.
The Russian citizen, who has two Irish-born children, allegedly went into hiding sometime after February 1998, according to Russian authorities, and was put on an international wanted list by them in 2004.
As Mr Khatlamadzhiyev could not be located by Russian authorities, the criminal case against him has been extended over the years by the Criminal Investigations Unit of the Chief Investigatory Directorate of the Central Internal Affairs Directorate of the Rostov Region.
He was arrested by detectives from the Garda’s extradition unit in August 2018 and taken to the High Court in Dublin where extradition proceedings have been ongoing.
Mr Justice Donald Binchy, the High Court judge in charge of international extradition cases, heard the case against Mr Khatlamadzhiyev in November but sought further information from Russian authorities before delivering judgment.
Mr Justice Binchy had asked the Russian authorities for specific assurances that Mr Khatlamadzhiyev would receive a fair trial in Russia. He also asked for assurances with regard to the conditions of pretrial detention facilities and prisons in the Russian Federation.
However, no response from the Russian authorities has been forthcoming, despite a reminder being sent by Irish authorities in recent weeks.
Counsel for Mr Khatlamadzhiyev, Kieran Kelly BL, said the lack of a response from the Russian authorities led to an inevitable result.
Mr Kelly asked for his client to be discharged from proceedings and for his immediate release from custody, where he has been since August 2018.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, who was managing a number of extradition cases in the High Court on Wednedsay, said he had spoken to Mr Justice Binchy and his colleague’s position was “clear”. In the absence of any response from Russian authorities “these proceedings should terminate”.
Mr Justice Binchy’s concern was that Mr Khatlamadzhiyev should not spend any more time in custody on foot of these proceedings, having already spent 18 months on remand, the judge said.
Mr Justice Hunt told Mr Kelly, and his instructing solicitor Tony Hughes, to inform Mr Khatlamadzhiyev of the “good news”.
Ireland extended international extradition obligations to a number of countries, including the Russian Federation, in 2000.
It is the second time the Irish High Court has refused to extradite an individual to Russia in recent years, with Mr Justice John Edwards holding in 2015 that there are “long standing structural weaknesses and deficiencies in the Russian judicial and criminal justice system”.
Amongst the weaknesses and deficiencies identified in Mr Justice Edwards’ judgment were concerns about the independence of the judiciary; biases and unfairness’ in the system; a disproportionately high rate of convictions (in excess of 99%) save for where public officials are being tried for abuses; difficulties in defendants obtaining effective legal representation; an unhealthy relationship between prosecutors and the judiciary; an unhealthy relationship between the prosecution service and law enforcement agencies with the latter frequently coercing confessions by means of violence, sometimes amounting to torture, excessive force and ill-treatment of persons in custody, and scant respect for the presumption of innocence.
“The evidence is really all one way in that regard,” Mr Justice Edwards said in his 2015 decision.
Mr Justice Binchy is expected to deliver his judgment in the coming weeks.