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Akhmed Zakayev

Akhmed Zakayev (Ахмед Закаев) is a Chechen envoy and the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Aslan Maskhadov, appointed by President Maskhadov shortly after the 1997 election.

He was involved in negotiations with Russian representatives before and after the September 1999 Russian offensive. He is accused by Russia of involvement in planning the Moscow theatre siege. Living in London, he organized the World Chechen Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark which brought together Chechens and Russian human rights activists in October 2002. During the congress, Zakayev denied Maskhadov's involvement in the theater capture, but threatened new acts of terrorism (including the use of nuclear materials).

The Russians demanded his arrest and extradition, alleging foreknowledge of the Moscow theatre siege. He was arrested in Denmark on October 30, 2002 and held for five weeks, but released, ostensibly because the Danish authorities were not convinced that sufficient evidence had been provided. While there is officially a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Russia (as is a must for any member of the Council of Europe), the Danish courts refused to extradite Zakayev, explaning that they do not repatriate persons when they face the death penalty.

On December 7 2002, Zakayev returned to London, where he claimed asylum. The British authorities arrested him and he was released on 50,000 GBP bail, which was paid by Vanessa Redgrave who had travelled with him from Denmark. On November 13, 2003 a British judge rejected the Russian request for his extradition, saying that it was politically motivated and that he would be at risk of torture. On November 29 it was announced that he had been granted asylum in the UK.

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