Russia pledges 'fair ruling' for exiled Chechen leader

17th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia's chief prosecutor Yury Chaika pledged on Friday that Russia would issue a fair ruling over the fate of Chechen independence leader Akhmed Zakayev if Poland agreed to extradite him.

Polish police said earlier in the day they had arrested Zakayev, who is wanted in Moscow on terror charges, a day after he arrived in Poland to attend a two-day congress of exiles from conflict-torn Chechnya.

Speaking by phone to his Polish counterpart, Chaika "guaranteed that in the event of Zakayev's extradition to Russia all his rights under international law would be observed and a fair ruling would be made," the general prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Chaika had also said Moscow had already sent Poland all additional evidence on the case, the statement said. Zakayev stood accused of "especially grave crimes including terrorism," he added.

Poland's chief prosecutor Andrzej Seremet for his part told Chaika that Poland would act in strict accordance with its international obligations as well as bilateral agreements between Poland and Russia, the statement said.

Earlier in the day Chaika's office said it planned to send Poland a request to extradite Zakayev.

"The general prosecutor's office is preparing materials that will be translated into Polish and will be forwarded to Poland's competent bodies to solve the issue of his extradition to Russia," spokeswoman Marina Gridneva said.

Zakayev was the European representative of Chechen separatist president Aslan Maskhadov, who was killed fighting Russian forces in 2005.

Moscow fought two full-blown wars with separatists in Muslim-majority Chechnya in the 1990s, which left the region devastated.

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told a regular briefing earlier Friday that Russian authorities were in contact with their Polish counterparts.

Russian officials had already condemned the Chechen congress held to the north of Warsaw as a bid to stoke strife in the troubled Caucasus region and said they would demand Zakayev's extradition.

The Kremlin did not offer any official reaction to Zakayev's arrest but its envoy to Russia's north Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya called Zakayev an "international terrorist."

"He must be tried in Russia," the Interfax news agency quoted deputy prime minister Alexander Khloponin as saying.

© 2010 AFP

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