Bulgarian court refuses to extradite Russian dissident over rights fears

Bulgarian court refuses to extradite Russian dissident over rights fears

A Bulgarian court on Thursday refused to extradite a Russian businessman wanted on tax charges, fearing he will not receive a fair trial after criticizing Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Alexey Alchin -- who has lived in Bulgaria since 2014 -- publicly burned his Russian passport in front of the consulate in the coastal city of Varna as part of a demonstration against the war in Ukraine in February.

The 46-year-old entrepreneur has been accused of tax evasion worth 282.5 million rubles ($4.7 million) in Russia.

Alchin told Bulgarian media that although the accusations of tax evasion dating back to 2018, it was only in April that Moscow started to search for him through the international criminal police agency Interpol.

This was shortly after he published a speech on social media opposing the war.

But on Thursday the Court of Appeal in Varna said it would not extradite him to his home country.

The court concluded there was a "risk of aggravation of his situation due to his political convictions and a violation of his rights during the criminal trial".

Refusing to extradite Alchin, the court said, is also similar to decisions made in other European countries that have denied extradition requests from Russia "based on a lack of confidence in the will of this country to fulfill its obligations by international law".

Demonstrations supporting the entrepreneur have been held in Bulgaria in recent weeks, including in the capital Sofia along with calls for the government to grant him asylum in the country.

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