A RUSSIAN businessman with links to East Yorkshire was freed after seven months in custody when a York lawyer won an extradition battle on his behalf.

Andrej Moskvitin was accused of being part of a four-man group who kidnapped a man suspected of child rape, beat him up and killed him in Russia in 1999. Two men have since been convicted of the murder after they gave confessions, alleged to have been obtained through torture.

The Russian Federation put in an extradition request and Scotland Yard’s specialist extradition unit arrested him near Pocklington last autumn.

Mr Moskvitin, who has run a business in the UK for several years, denies the allegation. He spent seven months in custody until solicitor Colin Byrne, of York-based Howard & Byrne, and barrister Nicholas Johnson, of Exchange Chambers in Leeds, persuaded an extradition judge at Westminster Magistrates Court to throw out the case and release him.

The defence lawyers successfully argued that Mr Moskvitin would be subjected to inhumane and degrading conditions on remand in Russia, that evidence obtained through torture may be used against him and that he may not receive a fair trial.

They relied in part on evidence showing that overcrowding, physical abuse and lack of adequate healthcare were commonplace in some Russian prisons, despite Russian government claims that improvements were being made.

Mr Byrne said: “Mr Moskvitin has acted with great dignity throughout, he has shown himself to have incredible resilience and despite everything he has been through, I believe he will be able to rebuild his life.”

Mr Moskvitin engaged him because of the York lawyer’s reputation in international cases. Mr Byrne currently has cases in the US, Middle East and Europe.

“Such cases are demanding and very complex and they contain very significant and sensitive issues,” he said of the extradition case. “We had to be aware of very complicated matters and exercise a significant degree of diplomacy. It has been hard, hard work. I am proud that a York law firm has been able to do that and that a York firm is able to stand on the international stage.”

While the case was going on, Mr Byrne visited Moscow where he encountered Russian legal bureaucracy. He later provided a witness statement in the case about his time in Russia. He also had to deal with the possible effects of international events, including the crisis in the Crimea and Ukraine, the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly suspending Russia’s voting rights and excluding it from various decision-making organisations, as well as the fall-out from high-profile court cases in Russia such as the Greenpeace arrests.