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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Chechen accused of terror acts
Akhmed Zakayev
Russia has asked Britain to extradite Mr Zakayev
The Chechen president's special envoy has been accused of overseeing "terrorist attacks, murders and kidnappings" as Russia seeks his extradition from the UK.

Akhmed Zakayev, 44, is wanted by the Russian government over 13 charges of criminal activity in the Chechen republic between 1995 and 2000.

He has been described as a high-profile figure in the Chechen struggle for independence from Moscow, but he vehemently denies all the charges levelled against him.

Mr Zakayev was arrested at Heathrow airport in December 2002 after arriving from Denmark, where the Moscow authorities had also pressed for his extradition.

Firing squad

He denies all charges against him, and was released on bail when Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave gave him her backing by appearing in court to stand surety for 50,000 bail.

James Lewis QC told Bow Street Magistrates' Court in central London on Monday that Mr Zakayev made up part of a firing squad and led an armed group.

And he carried out systematic torture on suspected Russian informer Ivan Sloviov by shooting off three of his fingers, the court was told.

Mr Zakayev is also alleged to be responsible for the kidnap and torture of two Russian Orthodox priests.

Mr Lewis, representing the Russian authorities, read out 13 charges against Mr Zakayev dating back to 1995, ranging from waging war against Moscow to carrying out a series of murders and abductions.

Allegations 'absurd'

In Mr Zakayev's defence, Edward Fitzgerald QC called the allegations "absurd" and said his life would be in danger if he returned to Russia.

"There is a very real risk that he will be either killed or tortured.

"If he is returned, the result for Mr Zakayev will almost certainly be bloody and tragic."

Hostile press coverage in Russia which "compared him to Bin Laden" had prejudiced Mr Zakayev's case, Mr Fitzgerald said.

"It becomes apparent that this prosecution is all about politics and nothing to do with justice.

"What we will show is that this evidence for which extradition is sought is the production of fabrication, intimidation and the rewriting of history."

Some of the charges were dated 1995-1996 and 1999-2000, during the first and second Chechnya wars.

Mr Fitzgerald said fighting during such conflicts could not be conceived as illegal warfare.

"It [is] both illegal, illogical and dishonest of the Russian authorities to seek now to criminalise the alleged acts of Mr Zakayev."




SEE ALSO:
Top Chechen envoy remains on bail
09 Jan 03  |  UK News
Zakayev: Key Chechen figure
06 Dec 02  |  Europe
UK actress defends Chechen rebel
06 Dec 02  |  Europe


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