Bulgaria to Extradite French Man Linked to Charlie Hebdo Attack

Bulgaria will extradite a French citizen accused of harboring links with one of the attackers in the deadly assault on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Jan. 7.

The Haskovo Court in southern Bulgaria ruled to hand Fritz Jolie Joaquin, 29, to French authorities, after he was charged in absentia in Paris on Jan. 11 with participation in an organized crime group and preparing terrorist acts, the court said on its website on Tuesday.

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 Jan. 16 ruling, the court overturned the kidnapping charge, it said.

“The decision is final,” Prosecutor Darina Slavova said by phone from Haskovo. “Joaquin will be handed to French authorities within 10 days.”

Said and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 people at Charlie Hebdo 13 days ago 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.

“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 on Jan. 16. He said he knew Cherif Kouachi, adding that “we never spoke about religion.”

Bulgaria has been stepping up controls on its 240-kilometer (150-mile) 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, Slavova said on Jan. 13.

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