RIGA - A Moscow court was poised to approve the extradition of deport the controversial former leader of the National Bolshevik Party who is wanted for a number of charges including the attempted assassination of former President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
Vladimir Linderman, who also goes by the nom de guerre "Abel," was arrested in Russia for breaches of the immigration code.
The Moscow court had not yet announced whether Linderman would be extradited to Latvia or simply forced to leave the country, though reports by Russian agencies indicate he is likely to be sent to the Baltic state.
"An Izmailovo court judge ruled that Linderman is guilty of breaching the administrative code and penalized 2,000 rubles (38.6 lats, 54.74 euros) and to be expelled from Russia," Anna Usachova, spokeswoman for Moscow court, told Interfax.
"National Bolshevik Party ex-leader in Latvia Vladimir Linderman Abel was detained on Friday [Feb. 29]," a Russian lawmaker, Alexander Averin, told the Interfax news agency.
"Linderman is charged in a criminal case in Latvia for the violent overthrow [of the government] and an attempt to assassinate the president," he said.
The sudden change of heart about Linderman's fate in Russia is likely due to the thaw in relations with Latvia. The two countries signed a long-awaited border agreement in December and are planning President Valdis Zatlers' trip to Moscow later this year. In addition, it is likely that Vladimir Putin, in the capacity of prime minister, will visit Riga in June when Latvia hosts a summit of Baltic Sea states.
Linderman has been taken to court and faced deportation a number of times, in some cases at the request of Latvian authorities, but he managed to avoid extradition in each case. On March 3 he was convicted of violating the terms of his passport.
The Russian language daily Telegraph 's a publication catering to the Russian speaking population in Latvia 's reported on March 4 that Linderman's lawyer plans to appeal the decision. The appeals process, according to the daily, will most probably take at least a month.
Latvia first requested Linderman's extradition to face trial in October 2003. Russia refused to fulfill the request, ostensibly based of fears of political persecution. This drew a harsh response from the Latvian Foreign Ministry.
"The actions taken by the authorities of the Russian Federation are totally incomprehensible, particularly as Mr. Linderman has been accused of perpetrating a serious and dangerous crime," the ministry's strongly worded press release in October 2003 said.
The ministry expressed concern that the refusal was "dictated by short-term political considerations rather than by the principles of rule of law."
Linderman is being held in a detention facility for non-citizens until the appeals process has been completed and a final ruling on his status in the country is made, the Apollo online news portal reported on March 1.
In November 2002, three members of Pobeda (Victory) 's a thinly veiled political cover for the Latvian branch of the National Bolsheviks party 's were arrested on intelligence reports that there was a plot to assassinate Vike-Freiberga.
The three were found with large amounts of explosives and ammunition. There was also reportedly a letter calling for the death of Vike-Freiberga.
Linderman, the leader of the organization at the time, applied for asylum and fled to Russia when his own arrest was imminent following the detention of his three followers. He sent a written request for refugee status directly to President Putin and was rebuffed.
Linderman denies the charges pressed against him, arguing that they were politically motivated. He claims that all of the evidence was fabricated by Latvian police.
A Latvian court disbanded Pobeda in 2003, accusing the organization of being "openly and categorically opposed to Latvian government activities on domestic and foreign policy issues."
The organization was by no means subtle about its intentions. Shortly after its foundation in April 2000, Pobeda began releasing newsletters which became increasingly belligerent toward the Latvian state.
In one particularly provocative newsletter, the organization issued a call to arms for martyrs to join the party.
"[We invite] all who want to make a revolution with their own hands. We await those who are funny, energetic and evil. National Bolsheviks, anarchists, [followers of] Che Guevara, skinheads, punks 's come to us. We guarantee an interesting life and a beautiful death," a report quoted the newsletter as saying.
Members of the organization have also been sentenced to serve jail time for terrorism after locking themselves inside a prominent church and threatening to detonate explosives if their political demands were not met.
Linderman effectively ran the Russian National Bolshevik party in Moscow after the Russian government arrested Eduard Limonov, the former leader of the party, in 2003.
At the time, Linderman's lawyer claimed that the arrest came at the request of the Latvian government. Russia ultimately refused to extradite him to Latvia, however, and agreed with the defense that the charges were politically motivated.