London, 13 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- A British court today rejected Russia's request for the extradition of top Chechen envoy Akhmed Zakaev (pictured), wanted by Moscow on terrorism charges. Judge Timothy Workman said he had found Russia is seeking extradition for the purposes of prosecuting Zakaev on account of his political opinions.
Russia had sought his extradition on 13 counts including murder, kidnapping, and soliciting others to murder during the war in the breakaway republic.
But Workman said that he believes Zakaev might be tortured if he returns to Russia. He said it would be unjust and oppressive to return Zakaev to Russia.
Zakaev said after the ruling: "From the first day [of the extradition trial] I was simply sure that there was no other decision because all of those accusations were legally unjustified and politically motivated. All of that was falsified. And there was no other way an independent court could act."
The judge quoted one witness as saying that Chechens are almost always tortured and said he believes the evidence of another witness. The witness had testified that he had been held in a pit for six days and tortured with electric shocks to force him to make a statement against Zakaev.