Bulgaria to extradite Frenchman linked to Charlie Hebdo gunmen

Fritz-Joly Joachin acknowledges links to Kouachi brothers but denies being part of Islamist militant group

Fritz-Joly Joachin (centre), a French citizen of Haitian origin, arrives in court in the town of Haskovo, southeastern Bulgaria, on January 20th, 2015. Mr Joachin (29), was arrested on January 1st last trying to cross from EU member Bulgaria into Turkey by bus. He has admitted to being “old friends” with the Kouachi brothers - who were shot dead by French police two days after they staged the January 7th  Charlie Hebdo strike that left 12 people dead - but  denies being an extremist. Photograph: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images

Fritz-Joly Joachin (centre), a French citizen of Haitian origin, arrives in court in the town of Haskovo, southeastern Bulgaria, on January 20th, 2015. Mr Joachin (29), was arrested on January 1st last trying to cross from EU member Bulgaria into Turkey by bus. He has admitted to being “old friends” with the Kouachi brothers - who were shot dead by French police two days after they staged the January 7th Charlie Hebdo strike that left 12 people dead - but denies being an extremist. Photograph: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images

 

Bulgaria will extradite a Frenchman who was a business partner of the two brothers who shot dead 12 people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, a court said on Tuesday.

Fritz-Joly Joachin has acknowledged his connections to the Kouachi brothers and even played football with them, but denies being part of an Islamist militant group.

He is ready to be extradited to France to prove his innocence, his lawyer said.

Mr Joachin, a 29-year-old Muslim convert of Haitian origin, was arrested by Bulgarian police on January 1st, before the Paris attack, at a border checkpoint when he tried to cross into Turkey.

He was initially held on a European arrest warrant that alleged he had abducted his three-year-old son and was likely to take him to Syria - an accusation he denies.

Second warrant

A second European arrest warrant later alleged Mr Joachin had participated in a criminal group that plotted acts of terrorism, for which he could face 10 years in prison.

It also says Mr Joachin, a construction worker with no previous criminal convictions, was travelling with a man who was allegedly part of a Islamist network in Paris. Also with them was the sister of a man in jail for being part of a network that sent fighters to Syria, the warrant said.

A prosecutor in the southern town of Haskovo told reporters after a short court hearing that Mr Joachin would be extradited within 10 days, but it could come much sooner.

“He can be even extradited tomorrow,” Darina Slavova said.

Seventeen people were killed in Paris in three days of violence that began with the storming of the offices of Charlie Hebdo on January 7th by the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi. The brothers were shot dead by French security forces after they took refuge in a print works outside Paris.

“He does not deny that he had contacts with Kouachi brothers,” Mr Joachin’s Bulgarian lawyer, Radi Radev, said. “He said he contacted one of the brothers in July.

“But he says he had no idea what they were engaged in. According to him, they were business partners and they have played football together.” Reuters