The lawyer of alleged Russian hacker Roman Seleznyov has alleged his client’s detention in the Maldives was illegal, calling for the termination of his case based on “outrageous governmental misconduct” by the United States.
“The U.S. agents disregarded the U.S. law which prohibits the execution of warrant of arrests on foreign soil, disregarded Maldives law which affords fundamental legal protections, and disregarded well-established principles of international law which prohibit government-sponsored abduction of non-combatants,” Defence Attorney Patrick Civille was quoted as saying by local media in Guam.
Seleznyov was taken to the US territory after being detained at the Maldives’ Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on July 5. Outraged Russian authorities have described his arrest as “kidnapping”.
A removal hearing scheduled in Guam today has been delayed while Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood determines whether she has jurisdiction over the case.
Seleznyov’s attorneys are reported as saying their client was detained by US rather than Maldivian personnel, as well as questioning the validity of the Interpol red notice used to detain him, claiming the notice was only issued on the day of the arrest.
An initial US press release revealed no details of the location of the arrest, though it was clearly stated as having taken place on July 5. A subsequent statement by the US Attorney’s Office in Guam said that Seleznyov had been arrested in Guam on July 6.
Arrested by US personnel
Civille’s motion is reported to have argued that his client was “in fact taken into custody by agents of the United States Secret Service while physically present in the Republic of the Maldives,” said Kuam News.
“While on foreign soil, Seleznev [sic] was detained, handcuffed and questioned by U.S. law enforcement agents who then quickly spirited Seleznev away from Maldives to Guam on a private jet chartered by the United States,” continued Civille.
“His arrest therefore occurred on foreign soil, not upon the territory of the United States, and thus his presence before this court has been procured in an unlawful manner.”
Assistant US Attorney Marivic David is reported to have argued that the Guam court’s role is simply to positively identify the suspect in order to issue an order for his removal to the Western District of Washington in the US where Seleznyov was indicted in March 2011.
In a statement provided for the District Court of Guam, Seleznyov has described his arrest by US personnel on July 5.
“One of the three Americans screamed loudly that he was with the United States Secret Service and that I was under arrest. When I asked why I was under arrest, a paper was aggressively dangled in front of my face,” Marianas Variety reported Seleznyov as saying.
“None of these individuals was a Maldives law enforcement agent as far as I could determine,” Seleznyov is quoted as saying.
While Russian media have also quoted eyewitnesses who reported non-Maldivians detaining the Seleznyov, President Abdulla Yameen has previously dismissed claims of a US Secret Service operation on Maldivian soil as baseless.
After a high-level government delegation met with Russian diplomats in an attempt to smooth relations, Home Minister Umar Naseer last week said that Maldivian authorities would have acted differently had they know the suspect was the son of a Russian MP.
“Had it been known that he was a high-profile person in Russia, we would have discussed with Russia. We would have talked and found out what they thought of the matter. We don’t want at all to do anything to displease Russia,” Naseer said on TVM’s Raajje Miadhu (Maldives Today) programme Thursday night (July 17).
Selezynov’s father Valery Seleznyov has called on Russian authorities to impose economic sanctions on the Maldives and reportedly offered US$50,000 for evidence proving his son was detained by US intelligence agents.
US officials in have maintained that Maldivian authorities acted under their own laws, expelling Seleznyov from the country before his subsequent arrest.
Seleznyov is accused of bank fraud, identity theft, and other cyber crimes. The US have described him as “one of the world’s most prolific traffickers of stolen financial information”.