An Israeli man convicted of international human organ trafficking walked free on Tuesday, after Russian authorities failed to challenge a Larnaca judge who dismissed an extradition request.
Moshe Harel, a 70-year-old travel agent, was arrested after landing at Larnaca International Airport in December 2017, when immigration officers pulled up a Russian warrant against him. A long and protracted court battle ensued with Russian authorities seeking Harel’s extradition.
Larnaca judge cites double jeopardy
But in late January, a judge in the Larnaca District Court rejected the extradition request, siding with the defence attorneys that their client’s right to a fair trial was compromised. The Cypriot judge cited a previous conviction for the same crimes in the defendant’s home country.
Knews understands Harel was previously sentenced to community service by an Israeli court after convicting him on organ trafficking charges.
The illegal scheme was uncovered in 2008 when a Turkish man collapsed at Pristina airport, after having his kidney removed
A Larnaca court specifically referred to a set of rules established by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the right not to be tried or punished twice for the same crime on the same facts, known as the double jeopardy principle.
Cypriot authorities waited for 32 days until the deadline for appeal expired. Russian authorities did not file a motion as of Tuesday, and Harel was set free. Reports said he would most likely be deported back to Israel, but the reports could not be independently confirmed.
Harel, reportedly a dual citizen of Israel and Turkey, was wanted for organ trafficking offences committed between January and July 2006, while the network was reportedly working through 2010.
Reports said Harel would seek out potential donors from Turkey and the former Soviet Union and lure them to Kosovo in order to sell their kidneys for €16,000. He would then charge over €100,000 to Israeli recipients of kidney transplants.
The illegal scheme was uncovered in 2008 when a Turkish man collapsed at Pristina airport, after he had his kidney removed without proper post-surgery medical care.