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Zakayev Evidence On Shaky Ground

Published: November 19, 2002 (Issue # 821)


MOSCOW - Prosecutors have sent Denmark evidence implicating Akhmed Zakayev in the 1996 kidnapping of two priests in Chechnya to back up a request for his extradition, Interfax reported Saturday.

But the human-rights group Memorial, whose members interviewed one of the priests after he was freed, said the evidence does not hold up.

Zakayev, a top aide to Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, was detained Oct. 30 in Copenhagen after attending a congress of Chechen separatists and human rights activists there. A Danish court ruled he should remain in jail until Nov. 26 while Russia's extradition request is considered. Interfax, citing Prosecutor General's Office spokesperson Leonid Troshin, said prosecutors sent Danish officials evidence of Zakayev's involvement in the kidnapping of Sergei Zhigulin and Anatoly Chistousov, two Russian Orthodox priests.

The evidence is based on the testimony of Zhigulin, who was held for five months before being swapped for a bodyguard of the late Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev. His testimony was translated into Danish and handed over to Danish authorities, Troshin said.

Memorial, in a statement posted on its Web site, Memo.ru, said its members visited Zhigulin in the hospital shortly after he was freed and determined that Zhigulin had named Zakayev only because he knew his name.

When a Memorial member showed Zhigulin photos of another Chechen warlord, Doku Makhayev, the priest recognized the man as his abductor and agreed that Zakayev probably was not linked to his abduction, the statement said.

Both Memorial and Ivan Rybkin, a former head of the Security Council, who visited Zakayev in his jail cell in Copenhagen last week, noted that documents implicating Zakayev in crimes in Chechnya that Russian prosecutors had sent to Denmark earlier had several factual mistakes and discrepancies.

For example, in one of the documents the prosecutors wrote that Zakayev's people had seized the two priests and executed both by gunshot, Memorial wrote. In the same batch of documents, prosecutors said one of the priests was freed. According to Zhigulin's own account, Chistousov was beaten to death, not shot.

Prosecutors provided the Danes with a wrong patronymic for Zakayev, and his date and place of birth differed between documents, Rybkin was quoted as saying by the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper Friday.

"The Danes look at this and decide that this man fell victim to a fit of temper," Rybkin said. "[Russian officials] are often commanded by the demands of political expediency and turn a blind eye to the judicial aspects."

At the time of Zakayev's arrest, Danish police said they had information from Russia via Interpol of Zakayev's suspected involvement in the Oct. 23 raid by armed Chechen separatists on the Dubrovka theater.

But Danish Justice Ministry officials later said Russia's formal extradition request did not include evidence linking Zakayev to the theater siege.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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