A judge of the Prague City Court ordered Thursday that the Czech Republic reject the Belarusian authorities’ request to extradite former presidential candidate Ales Mikhalevich.
The judge ruled that the extradition would run counter to the country’s international commitments.
Mr. Mikhalevich fled Belarus to the Czech Republic in mid-March in fear of prosecution in connection with last December’s post-election protest in Minsk; he was granted political asylum in the country later that month.
"The Czech authorities doubt that the trial of my case in Belarus would be fair," Mikhalevich commented to BelaPAN .
"In fact, I don’t think that the Belarusian Prosecutor General’s Office expected its application to be granted. It just wanted to show that the case against me was really serious," said the politician.
Commenting on the hearing on the extradition appeal, Mikhalevich said that he had mostly been questioned about damage caused to the House of Government in Minsk's Independence Square during the December 19, 2010 post-election protest. "I said that I was not near the House of Government when some people were smashing its windows," he noted. "I also said that I had called on voters to assemble in another place, not the one where damage to the House of Government had later been done."
In a posting that appeared on his blog shortly after midnight on March 14, Mikhalevich, who was freed on his own recognizance in February, said that he had fled to a safe place, "beyond the reach" of the Committee for State Security (KGB).
The ex-candidate, who spent two months in the KGB detention center, was arrested shortly after the December 2010 protest and charged in a so-called riot case.
Mikhalevich told reporters on February 28 that the conditions in the KGB jail were tantamount to torture and forced him to promise the KGB to act as its informant. Before his announcement, he sent a letter to the Prosecutor General’s Office, detailing his mistreatment and asking the Office to take action.
Mikhalevich is said to maintain contacts with British law firm H2O Law that is preparing to bring a private prosecution against the Belarusian leader in the light of "evidence of systematic torture inside the KGB-run prisons of Belarus".