Alleged Chechen killer fights extradition

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An alleged Chechen warlord wanted for extradition by Russia shot the fingers off a suspected enemy informer, a hearing in central London was told yesterday.

Akhmed Zakayev, 44, is wanted by the Russian government to face 13 charges of criminal activity in the Chechen republic between 1995 and 2000. His case came to public attention when the Oscar- winning actress Vanessa Redgrave appeared in court to stand surety for £50,000 bail.

James Lewis QC told Bow Street magistrates' court that Mr Zakayev made up part of a firing squad and led the armed South Western Front group. He was said to have overseen "murders and kidnappings".

Mr Zakayev systematically tortured Ivan Sloviov, the court heard. "When Sloviov refused to 'confess' to co-operating with the Russian Federal Security Service, Zakayev ... pressed the barrel of [a] gun against Sloviov's little finger on his right hand and pulled the trigger, shooting the finger off. He did the same thing to the left hand, shooting two fingers off."

Mr Zakayev, who became Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya in 1997, was arrested at Heathrow last December after arriving from Denmark, from where the Moscow authorities had also tried to extradite him.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, for the defence, called the allegations "absurd". Mr Zakayev's case had been prejudiced by hostile press in Russia that "compared him to Bin Laden". The Chechen separatist denies all the charges and the hearing continues.