Bulgaria arrests Frenchman with alleged links to Paris attackers
A Frenchman arrested in Bulgaria on Jan 1 trying to cross into Turkey was in contact with one of the two brothers who carried out the attacks in Paris last week, prosecutors said on Tuesday (Jan 13).
Fritz-Joly Joachin, 29, a French citizen of Haitian origin, "was in contact several times with one of the two brothers - Cherif Kouachi", public prosecutor Darina Slavova told AFP.
She said these contacts took place before Joachin left France on Dec 30, a week before Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said killed 12 people.
Joachin was initially detained on a European arrest warrant issued by France following allegations by his wife that he had kidnapped their three-year-old son.
But on Monday, as French police delved into the contacts of the Kouachi brothers, Bulgarian prosecutors received a second European arrest warrant issued by a court in Paris.
"The charges are for participation in an organised crime group whose aim was the organisation of terrorist acts," said Ms Slavova.
According to Joachin’s wife, he converted to Islam 15 years ago and turned radical two years ago.
She said he planned to take their child to Syria to educate him in a jihadist community.
But Joachin told prosecutors that he was travelling with his son and girlfriend for a holiday in Istanbul, and Bulgarian media quoted him as denying being an extremist.
"I am Muslim but I am not a radical or terrorist," the Presa newspaper quoted him as saying.
An extradition hearing is due to take place on Friday. On Monday he had said he would not contest his extradition back to France.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Veselin Vuchkov said on Tuesday that EU citizens can easily cross over Bulgaria’s border into Turkey, and then into Syria to join Islamic State of Syria and Iraq militants, if Bulgarian authorities are not alerted by their home countries.