Akhmed Zakayev

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Akhmed Zakayev (Ахмед Закаев; born April 26, 1956) is the Foreign Minister of Chechen republic government-in-exile, appointed by the President Aslan Maskhadov shortly after his 1997 election, and again in 2006 by Abdul Halim Sadulayev.

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[edit] Political and military career

Akhmed Zakayev, a former actor at Grozny theatre, became a Minister of Culture in the government of Dzokhar Dudayev. After the start of the First Chechen War he left his job and eventually became an important field commander of a Chechen resistance group. His group operated in the South West of the country with its headquarters in the town of Urus-Martan. In August 1996, Zakayev's group took part in the Chechen recapture of Grozny, where he led the attack on the city's Central Railway Station.

His war merits in the mid-90's paved Zakayev's way to Chechen high politics. As a moderate leader, he represented Chechnya at the peace talks in Khavsa-Yurt, which in 1996 brought a peaceful end to the first armed conflict between Moscow and Grozny. After the talks, Zakayev became the Chechen Deputy Prime Minister and a special envoy of President Aslan Maskhadov. At the same time, however, he continued to be the commander of his armed group.

[edit] Second Chechen War

Zakayev was involved in negotiations with Russian representatives before and after the September 1999 Russian offensive. In the course of the Second Chechen War Zakayev briefly fought on the Chechen side. In 2000, after having been wounded, he left for abroad and turned into the most prominent representative of President Maskhadov in Western Europe.

[edit] Exile

Living in London, Zakayev organized the World Chechen Congress in Copenhagen, During the congress, he was accused by Russia of involvement in planning the Moscow theatre siege. Zakayev firmly denied involvement in the theater capture. The Russians demanded his arrest and extradition, alleging foreknowledge of the Moscow theatre siege and other crimes involving hundreds of killings and captures of Russian servicemen during the separatist wars in Chechnya. He was arrested in Denmark on October 30, 2002 and held for five weeks. The matter was never brought to court and he was released by the justice ministry who said that Russia's charges against him were not sufficiently grounded in fact. 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, explaining that the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits them from repatriating 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 political asylum in the UK. He has visited Germany without being arrested, the Interpol warrant voided by Germany's accession to the ECHR and the risk of torture mentioned above.

[edit] External links

Akhmed Zakayev

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