By VADIM GHIRDA and STEPHEN McGRATH
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Andrew Tate, the divisive influencer and former professional kickboxer who is detained in Romania on suspicion of organized crime and human trafficking appeared at a court in Bucharest on Wednesday to appeal against a second 30-day extension of his detention.
Tate, 36, a British-U.S. citizen who has nearly 5 million followers on Twitter, arrived at the Bucharest Court of Appeal Wednesday morning handcuffed to his brother Tristan, who is held in the same case along with two Romanian women.
All four, who were initially detained in Bucharest in late December, will look to overturn a judge’s Jan. 20 decision to extend for a second time their detention by 30 days at the request of prosecutors. They previously lost an appeal against an earlier extension.
A document seen by The Associated Press explaining the Jan. 20 decision, said the judge took into account the “particular dangerousness of the defendants” and their capacity to identify victims “with an increased vulnerability, in search of better life opportunities.”
If the court rejects their appeal on Wednesday all four will remain in custody until Feb. 27 as prosecutors continue investigating the case.
Andrew Tate, who has reportedly lived in Romania since 2017, was previously banned from various prominent social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views and hate speech. He has claimed there is “zero evidence” against him in the case and alleged it is instead a political attack to silence him.
“My case is not criminal, it’s political. It’s not about justice or fairness. It’s about attacking my influence on the world,” read a post that appeared on his Twitter account on Sunday.
An online petition launched in January to free the brothers has garnered nearly 100,000 signatures.
After the Tates and the two women were arrested, Romania’s anti-organized crime agency, DIICOT, said in a statement that it had identified six victims in the human trafficking case who were subjected to “acts of physical violence and mental coercion” and were sexually exploited by the members of the alleged crime group.
The agency said victims were lured with pretenses of love, and later intimidated, surveilled and subjected to other control tactics while being coerced into engaging in pornographic acts for substantial financial gains.
Earlier in January, Romanian authorities descended on a compound near Bucharest where they towed away a fleet of luxury cars that included a blue Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari and a Porsche. They reported seizing assets worth an estimated $3.9 million.
Prosecutors have said that if they can prove the owners gained money through illicit activities such as human trafficking, the assets would be used to cover the expenses of the investigation and to compensate victims. Tate also unsuccessfully appealed the asset seizure.
McGrath contributed from Sighisoara, Romania.
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