MOSCOW, February 19 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) – Through his court-appointed defense attorney, 18-year-old Russian student Vladislav Miftakhov filed documents Tuesday urging the US federal court adjudicating his case to allow his release pending the upcoming criminal proceedings against him.
A magistrate judge held earlier this month that Miftakhov should be granted pretrial release and authorized to live with his family in California while awaiting trial in connection with explosive devices allegedly discovered in his residence. The release order was stayed, however, pending the present appeal before the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
The affidavit supporting his criminal complaint alleged that on January 24, law enforcement officers found a suitcase in Miftakhov’s room containing an aluminum object with an exposed fuse as well as a gas cartridge, also with an exposed fuse. Two days later, officers allegedly found in his residence a shell casing, inside of which was placed a handwritten scroll stating: “If you find this, you will never find me… by Vlaidslav Mikhailov.”
Prosecutors noted in a court filing that the back side of the note featured an A surrounded by a circle – a symbol resembling “that which was identified with the Anarchist movement.”
“Miftakhov indicated to law enforcement initially that he was making fireworks. However, Miftakhov later stated that he possessed the items because ‘he was going to blow things up,’” according to the affidavit.
Last week, prosecutors appealed the magistrate’s release order, asserting: “The Defendant is a manufacturer of explosives and dangerous destructive devices, is a [Russian] national with minimal ties to the community, and has committed the offense after a questionable history which has resulted in the defendant’s current status on probation at the time of this offense.”
Last Thursday, the court appointed federal public defender Christopher Brown as Miftakhov’s defense counsel.
Brown filed an opposition Tuesday to the prosecution appeal – replete with glowing character references and photographs of a smiling Mifatkhov in better times, posed with friends and family – striving to dispel the unflattering picture of the defendant painted by last week’s prosecution appeal.
“The Government asserts that Mr. Miftakhov is an anti-social foreign national bomb-maker and is therefore both a danger and a flight risk. This portrayal is not, however, supported by the evidence,” the defense asserts.
While Miftakhov is a Russian citizen, the opposition notes, he been living in the US as a legal permanent resident since the age of four. Prosecutors had pointed to his Russian citizenship as a reason for denying his release, noting with reference to his family in California that “they themselves are also not [US] citizens and have considerable ties to Russia,” later adding: “the defendant (and his family) retain their citizenship in Russia, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.”
With regard to Miftakhov’s stated intent to “blow things up,” the defense opposition argues: “The evidence presented at the detention hearing demonstrated the only ‘thing’ Mr. Miftakhov was interested in blowing up was dirt.”
According to the affidavit, a witness interviewed by law enforcement officials had accompanied Miftakhov in the weeks preceding his arrest to blow up cartridge devices in a nearby field.
The defense opposition notes with reference to this point that the prosecution had not produced evidence that anyone had been either hurt or targeted by his actions, rather couching his activities in terms of harmless youthful shenanigans: “Rather, the evidence established that he is a kid who made what he called ‘fireworks’ with materials he legally purchased online and took them to a grassy area and ignited them.”
The defense concludes with the assertion that the prosecution’s appeal of Miftakhov’s release order should be denied, or alternatively that a hearing should be held promptly to address the issue.