Health state of Russian hacking suspect Nikulin in dispute

Pankrác prison

A Russian newspaper says that the health of Yevgeny Nikulin, accused by the US of hacking computers at top companies, has deteriorated severely in a Czech prison. His lawyer describes the situation as a “death sentence”. However, the Czech authorities refute the allegations.

Yevgeny Nikulin,  photo: Czech Television
Yevgeny Nikulin was arrested in a Prague restaurant in late 2016 on the basis of an Interpol arrest warrant requested by the American government.

The Russian, who is 30 years of age, is accused by the US of hacking into computers and stealing information from major internet firms such as LinkedIn and Dropbox. He could face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

Moscow is also seeking his extradition on earlier charges of stealing less than CZK 50,000 from a bank account.

In an article published on Thursday entitled “Slow death in a Czech jail”, the leading Russian daily Izvestia quoted his lawyer, Vladimir Makeyev, as saying Mr. Nikulin was in virtual isolation at Prague’s Pankrác prison, suffering from severe pain and being denied due care.

Mr. Makeyev said his client had been subject to “punitive psychiatry” as Czech officials attempted to force him to make a false confession to interfering in the 2016 US election campaign.

The lawyer said Mr. Nikulin had experienced repeated bad stomach and kidney pains and needed a special diet; however, his need for specialized medical assistance was being ignored and his condition was deteriorating.

“For Yevgeny, this is a death sentence,” said Mr. Makeyev.

The Czech authorities strenuously reject the charge, however. Petra Kučerová is a spokesperson for the country’s prison service.

Pankrác prison | Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
“Yevgeny Nikulin’s state of heath has not deteriorated since he was taken into custody. Therefore we strongly deny the information that has appeared in the Russian press. The prison service provides due care to all imprisoned persons in its own and in some cases civilian health facilities. However, the imprisoned person must agree to such care.”

This statement was echoed by a spokesperson for the Czech Ministry of Justice, who described the Izvestia report as untrue.

A representative of Prague’s Russian Embassy told the news website that it was doing all it could “to ensure adherence to the legitimate interests of the Russian citizen, including the necessary medical care.”

A Czech court ruled in November that Mr. Nikulin could be extradited to the US.

The Czech minister of justice, Robert Pelikán, received the alleged hacker’s file before Christmas, starting a three-month period in which he must decide whether to turn the alleged hacker over to Washington or to Moscow.