An associate of Kazakh oligarch and opposition supporter Mukhtar Ablyazov has been released from jail in the Czech Republic after the Czech Justice Ministry ruled she could not be extradited to Ukraine to face criminal charges there.
Tatyana Paraskevich, 49, spent 22 months in custody in the Czech city of Plzen after both Ukraine and Russia issued extradition requests seeking to try the former accountant on charges of helping Ablyazov embezzle millions of dollars from Kazakhstan's BTA Bank, charges she and Ablyazov deny.
Defense lawyers had argued that Paraskevich was at risk of ill-treatment or forced deportation to Kazakhstan if extradited to Ukraine or Russia. Rights organizations criticized the joint extradition requests as politically motivated persecution ordered at Astana's behest.
The Czech Interior Ministry last month offered Paraskevich "international protection" blocking extradition requests, but she remained in prison after a prosecutor appealed the decision.
Paraskevich's lawyer, Marina Machytkova, told RFE/RL that her client was released early on March 20 following the Justice Ministry decision.
"[On March 19] Justice Minister [Helena] Valkova handed down a decision barring Paraskevich from being extradited to Ukraine," Machytkova said. "Her prison custody was directly connected to the extradition request. So a regional court in Plzen received the decision and ruled this morning to let Tatyana Paraskevich go free."
Machytkova said Paraskevich, who suffered from heart trouble and anemia as a result of her prolonged prison stay, is now in the Czech spa city of Karlovy Vary, where her family has rented an apartment.
The Plzen court is expected in the coming days to reject Paraskevich's second extradition request, issued by Russia.
Paraskevich is one of several Ablyazov associates to fight extradition from European Union states.
Ablyazov's former security chief, Aleksandr Pavlov, has been held in a Spanish jail outside Madrid pending extradition to Kazakhstan. The Spanish high court this month issued a temporary order suspending extradition actions after a report in "El Pais" newspaper revealed
that the Spanish government, after meeting with Kazakh diplomats, had issued a secret decree approving Pavlov's transfer to Kazakhstan.
Ablyazov's wife, Alma Shalabaeva, was kidnapped and illegally deported from Italy to Kazakhstan last summer. She was returned to Rome several months later amid mounting public outrage.
Another Ablyazov associate, activist Muratbek Ketebaev, was granted refugee status by Poland after Kazakhstan sought his extradition.
Ablyazov, a vocal opponent of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, is currently in prison in France, where he has appealed a ruling approving his extradition to Russia.