Czech ministry allows extradition of Ivory Coast national to U.S.

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech justice minister has allowed the extradition of Ivory Coast citizen Faouzi Jaber to the United States, where he is accused of trying to sell arms and drugs with the aim of harming U.S. interests.

Jaber was part of a trio of men arrested in Prague in 2014. The other two, Lebanese nationals Khaled Merebi and Ali Fayad, were released earlier this month in what was widely speculated in the media to be a swap for Czechs missing in Lebanon.

A Justice Ministry spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday Jaber’s extradition.

“Minister (Robert Pelikan) decided that Mr Jaber can be extradited to the United States. The Municipal Court has already changed his detention to the extradition mode,” spokeswoman Tereza Schejbalova said.

“It only depends on the agreement with the U.S. side now when Mr Jaber will leave.”

The three have been charged in the United States with aiding terrorism, attempting to sell ground-to-air missiles, cocaine trafficking and other crimes.

The men were caught in Prague as they tried to close a deal with people they thought were members of Colombian guerilla group FARC but who were in fact undercover officers of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Czech officials have denied swapping the Lebanese detainees for the Czechs missing in Lebanon. But Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky confirmed the connection in a newspaper interview conducted before the men’s release.

The United States had expressed shock at the decision to release the two, whom it had also been trying to extradite.

Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller; Editing by Hugh Lawson