Polish police arrest Chechen independence leader: police

17th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Polish police said Friday they had arrested exiled Chechen independence leader Akhmed Zakayev who is wanted by Russia for alleged terrorism.

Zakayev arrived in Poland on Thursday to attend a two-day congress of exiles from the conflict-torn region.

Police spokesman Mriusz Sokolowski said Poland was responding to an international arrest warrant and had no option but to detain the Chechen leader.

"He was arrested by plainclothes police as he was leaving a building," Sokolowski told TVN24 television.

"Because there was an international arrest warrant, police were under an obligation to detain him and to take him to prosecutors."

Polish authorities warned on Wednesday that Zakayev could face arrest if he came to the country and that a Polish court would have to decide if he would be extradited.

Adam Borowski, one of his supporters, told the Polish news agency PAP that Zakayev had in any case intended to surrender to Polish prosecutors on Friday.

"Mr Zakayev, who does not want to hide or cause problems for Poland, will present himself ... at the prosecutor's office ... to ask why he is being sought," Borowski said Thursday.

Russian officials have said they would demand Zakayev's extradition should he attend the Chechen conference which ends Friday and which they have condemned as a bid to stoke strife in the troubled Caucasus region.

Zakayev was the spokesman for Chechen separatist president Aslan Maskhadov, who was killed fighting Russian forces in 2005.

Britain granted Zakayev political asylum in 2003 and has rejected Moscow's calls for him to be extradited for alleged terrorism by Chechen separatists.

He is able to travel abroad thanks to an internationally recognised refugee passport.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned Russia not to count on Polish courts reaching a decision they would be happy with.

"The extradition procedure isn't the same as extradition," he was quoted as saying by PAP at the EU summit in Brussels.

But he also warned supporters of an independent Chechnya against staging any anti-Russian provocations.

Moscow has fought two full-blown wars with separatists in Muslim-majority Chechnya since 1994, which left the region devastated.

It is now battling a radical Islamist-fuelled insurgency there and in the neighbouring Caucasus regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia.

© 2010 AFP

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