France's highest administrative court, the Conseil d'Etat, canceled the extradition of Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov to Russia, saying the request was politically motivated, Reuters reported Dec. 9.
The court decision revokes an October 2015 order authorized by then-French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, which allowed for Ablyazov's extradition to either Ukraine or Russia, the newswire said. The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, had said Dec. 7 that Ablyazov could face torture if extradited.
Ablyazov was freed from jail the evening of Dec. 9, Agence France-Presse reported.
Ablyazov, who was arrested in France in 2013, is wanted by Kazakh authorities on suspicion of embezzling up to $6 billion from Kazakh lender BTA Bank JSC, in which he used to hold a majority stake. The banker has denied the accusations, saying he is being pursued as a political opponent of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
France does not have an extradition treaty with Kazakhstan, but it has relevant treaties in place with Russia and Ukraine. Ablyazov's lawyers were concerned that following his extradition to Russia or Ukraine, he could be transferred for trial to Kazakhstan, Reuters said in October 2015.