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Friday, 6 December, 2002, 21:45 GMT
UK actress defends Chechen rebel
Vanessa Redgrave at a London press conference
Redgrave said Mr Zakayev was innocent
British actress and human rights activist Vanessa Redgrave has said she fears for the life of Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakayev if he were to be extradited to Russia on terrorism charges.

Akhmed Zakayev
Mr Zakayev faces arrest in any Interpol member state
At a press conference in London, Redgrave said Mr Zakayev would "die of a heart attack" or some other mysterious explanation which would be offered by Russia.

Mr Zakayev arrived in the UK to seek political asylum on Thursday. He was arrested at Heathrow airport, but later released on bail paid by Redgrave.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov expressed outrage that Mr Zakayev had been allowed to walk free.

He said the envoy for Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov had called for more attacks on Russians, like November's hostage crisis in a Moscow theatre.

Mr Ivanov said: "I would like to ask, what would happen if another terrorist, [Osama] Bin Laden, who is also on the international wanted list, arrived in London and said that new terror attacks on non-military targets in the United States were in preparation?

"What would happen to him? Would he have a quiet talk in a police station and then be allowed to go free?"


Zakayev is relying on British justice, since he knows he is not guilty of any crimes

Russian human rights activist, Alexander Goldfarb
On Tuesday Mr Zakayev was released after 34 days in custody in Denmark, as a court refused a Russian appeal for extradition on terrorism charges.

Danish authorities arrested him as he took part in a Chechen congress in Copenhagen, following the raid by Chechen rebels on a Moscow theatre.

But the court ruled that Russia had provided insufficient evidence to back up the charges.

Field commander

At a press conference, Redgrave and several of her colleagues said Mr Zakayev was innocent and that Russia had used the theatre raid as an excuse to arrest him.

Earlier, Russian human rights activist Alexander Goldfarb told Ekho Moskvy radio station that "Zakayev is relying on British justice, since he knows he is not guilty of any crimes".

Warrant allegations
Waging war from 1995 to 2000
Murder of 300 policemen in 1996
Murder of two priests
Three counts of unlawful imprisonment
Mr Zakayev's supporters say that he came to England to seek political asylum.

The extradition warrant lists 10 charges, including murder and waging war against Russia as a leading Chechen field commander between 1995 and 2000.

Mr Zakayev, aged 43, is bailed to appear at Bow Street magistrates court on 11 December.

There is no extradition agreement between Britain and Russia, which has yet to formally abolish the death penalty.

Chief representative

Mr Zakayev would have been arrested on arrival in any of the 182 Interpol member states.

Since recovering from an injury received in 2000, he has been the chief representative in Europe of Aslan Maskhadov.

Russia has tried to present its campaign against separatists in Chechnya as another front in the war against terrorism.

While the Kremlin has received some support, European leaders have continued to push Moscow to reach a political settlement.

Russia suspended the death penalty on joining the Council of Europe in 1996.

But Justice Minister Yuri Chaika told the organisation's deputy secretary general on Friday that public support for capital punishment was gaining momentum following the Chechen raid on a Moscow theatre in October.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"The decision to grant him bail has left the Russians fuming"
Vanessa Redgrave, actress
"If this man was sent back to Moscow he would disappear"
Andre Pionkowsk, Centre for Strategic Studies
"It's a pathetic emotional overreaction"
See also:

30 Oct 02 | Europe
03 Dec 02 | Europe
Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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