Bulgaria Delays Extradition of French Citizen on Terrorist Links

A Bulgarian court delayed ruling on the extradition of a French citizen the prosecutor said had links with one of the terrorists involved in the deadly assault on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris last week.

Fritz Jolie Joaquin, 29, of Haitian origin, has agreed to be extradited to France, after he was charged in absentia in Paris on Jan. 11 with participation in an organized crime group and preparing terrorist acts, the Haskovo Court in southern Bulgaria said on its website today. Joaquin has three days to reconsider his agreement under the law and the court will hold a final hearing on Jan. 20.

Joaquin was detained on Jan. 1 on the Bulgarian border with Turkey with his three-year-old son, whom he abducted in France and took abroad, according to the Bulgarian Prosecution. In a separate ruling the court didn’t uphold the kidnapping charge on grounds Joaquin had full parental rights.

“He wants to leave for France as soon as possible to clear his name and make certain he isn’t connected with Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State,” Joaquin’s lawyer Radi Radev said in an interview with national radio.

Said and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 people at Charlie Hebdo last week as part of the deadliest terror attacks in France in half a century. Police are hunting those who may have funded, supported or sheltered the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly, who fatally shot a police officer in a Paris suburb Jan. 8 and then killed four hostages at a kosher grocery store the next day.

‘Not Guilty’

“France needs a culprit and probably I am the perfect option for this. I know that I’m not guilty, but I don’t know what kind of evidence they can invent,” Joaquin said in an interview with Nova TV in Sofia today. “I don’t accept this assault and want to express my condolences to the victims’ relatives. There probably will be people who are afraid of me and will probably say I’m dangerous.”

He admitted knowing Cheriff Kouachi, adding that “we never spoke about religion.”

Bulgaria has been stepping up controls on its 240 kilometer (150 miles) border with Turkey as the escalating violence in Syria and Iraq swelled refugee numbers.

Joaquin, who adopted Islam two years ago, planned to take his son to Syria and join the Islamic State fighters, Bulgarian supervising prosecutor Darina Slavova said on Jan. 13.

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