Chechen independence icon Zakayev risks arrest in Poland

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A Chechen independence leader wanted by Russia for alleged terrorism faces arrest in Poland if he shows up in Warsaw for a Chechen congress starting Thursday, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Poland's prosecutors office issued the warning ahead of a scheduled visit by Britain-based activist Akhmed Zakayev

"Mr. Zakayev is the object of an international arrest warrant issued by the Russian Federation," Mateusz Martyniuk, spokesman for Poland's prosecutor general told AFP.

"The warrant automatically requires all Interpol member states to arrest the person for whom the warrant is issued," Martyniuk said.

"If Mr. Zakayev comes to Poland, even though he is not wanted by our country, the police still have the obligation to detain him and bring him before public prosecutors and a court that will rule on his eventual extradition," he added.

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

Britain granted Zakayev political asylum in 2003 and has refused Moscow's calls for him to be extradited for alleged "terrorist" acts.

He is among some 250 to 300 people invited to the three-day meeting organised by the World Chechen Congress starting Thursday in Warsaw, Islambek Kekharsayev, the Polish representaive of Ichkeria, told AFP.

The Chechen republic of Ichkeria is the self-proclaimed unrecognised secessionist government of Chechnya.

Russia's new ambassador to Poland, Alexander Alekseyev, on Tuesday warned that the congress by Chechen separatists was an "extremely dangerous affair" and said Moscow would demand Zakayev's extradition to Russia should he attend.

Poland's foreign ministry spokesman Marcin Bosacki said Tuesday that the ministry would follow the Chechen congress "with attention and concern".

Moscow has fought two full-blown wars in Chechnya since 1994 and is now fighting a radical Islamist-fuelled insurgency in the North Caucasus regions of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia that has claimed scores of lives.

© 2010 AFP

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