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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 13:10 GMT
Top Chechen envoy remains on bail
Akhmed Zakayev and Vanessa Redgrave
Zakayev: Supported by actress Vanessa Redgrave
The Chechen president's special envoy, Akhmed Zakayev, is to remain in Britain on bail, a judge ruled on Thursday.

The delay will allow the British government to decide whether to agree to Russia's request to extradite him.

Mr Zakayev, 43, is a high-profile figure in the Chechen struggle for independence from Moscow - a conflict which Russia sees as its own war against terrorism.

Russia accuses him of banditry, hostage-taking and at least 302 murders during the 1994-1996 Chechen war.

If my extradition is approved, Russia will read that as Europe and the rest of the world agreeing with the way Russia has decided to fight against the Chechen nation

Akhmed Zakayev

At Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London on Thursday, judge Timothy Workman ruled that Mr Zakayev could remain at liberty and adjourned the case until 31 January.

He was not in court, but outside the court his lawyer Gareth Peirce said: "We hope that the home secretary will take the same view that the Danish minister of justice took, that this case does not deserve to proceed before the courts. It is utter nonsense."

Theatre siege

Mr Zakayev denies involvement in terrorism. He is expected to argue that English law has no equivalent of banditry and that at least one of those he is accused of murdering is alive and well in Moscow.

It is the second case Moscow has pursued against Mr Zakayev, who was on Russian soil as recently as November 2001 for discussions about possible new peace talks.

An attempt to get him extradited from Denmark failed, and he was arrested at Heathrow airport last month.

Correspondents say it was the Moscow theatre siege - in which hundreds of spectators were taken hostage by Chechen rebels - that prompted Russia to act.

Russian tanks in Chechnya
Russian forces poured back into Chechnya in 1999
Mr Zakayev was remanded on conditional bail by Bow Street Magistrates Court last month after the actress Vanessa Redgrave guaranteed his 50,000 ($80,000) bail.

Speaking afterwards, he said that if his extradition was sanctioned "Russia will read that as Europe and the rest of the world (being) in agreement with the way Russia has decided to fight against the Chechen nation."

Ms Redgrave, an Oscar-winning British actress, has rejected the charges against Mr Zakayev and insisted he is a highly respected actor in his home state "not a warlord and not a terrorist".

Human rights group Amnesty International opposes his extradition, claiming that he could be tortured if he is returned to Russia.

Mr Zakayev hopes to apply for political asylum if he is not sent back to Russia to face trial.

See also:

06 Dec 02 | Europe
06 Dec 02 | Europe
30 Oct 02 | Europe
29 Oct 02 | Europe
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