An aide to Akhmed Zakaev, vice premier of Chechnya’s underground separatist government, told the Jamestown Foundation in a February 3 telephone conversation from London that Zakaev is confident the Russian government will not succeed in its current effort to extradite him from the United Kingdom on charges of terrorism. The aide said that the British authorities had forbidden Zakaev to leave the United Kingdom and had required him temporarily to surrender his passport–as is normal in such cases–pending a British court’s decision on the extradition request. In the meantime the Chechen official remains free to move about unhindered within Britain.
The formal extradition process began with a ten-minute court hearing on January 31; the court’s next session is scheduled for February 14. The Russian television network NTV made it clear in its coverage of the case on January 31 that the British authorities’ decision to begin the extradition process does not at all automatically mean that Zakaev will in fact be extradited—nor does Britain’s or Russia’s participation in the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.
According to NTV, Zakaev’s lawyer Gareth Pierce said (as back-translated from NTV’s Russian) that “it is very rare that the Home Office will decide not even to have a court review of an extradition request. Mr. Zakaev welcomes this decision, at least now it will be possible to consider all the accusations in a judicial forum and to show that they are baseless.”
In his most recent report on Chechnya to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Britain’s Lord Frank Judd wrote of Zakaev that “of those associated with the Chechen fighters with whom I have met and spoken, it is with him that I have been able to have some of the most intelligent discussions about the global realities as they affect the people of the Chechen Republic and about the need for a political settlement. His removal at this stage from even tentative steps towards engagement in a political settlement does not seem to me self-evidently to help.”