Justice Minister: Akhmed Zakayev will not be tortured in Russia

Russian Justice Minister Yuri Chaika has announced that in the event of Akhmed Zakayev being extradited from Britain, he will be detained in conditions that meet international standards. The minister made this announcement yesterday at a press conference in response to a claim by Zakayev's lawyer that torture is common in Russian prisons. 'If Zakayev is detained in Russia, we will be prepared to allow representatives of the European Commission on Human Rights to visit him everyday. We are open to everyone, and everyone knows that any human rights worker can visit any cell to see what detention conditions are like,' stressed Chaika. The minister believes that the announcement by Zakayev's lawyer was 'a fiction that is supposed to prevent that criminal from being handed over.' He added that 'the things they talk about in the West - torture, beatings - happened 7 or 8 years ago. Prison conditions today meet international standards.'

According to Chaika, Russian Deputy Justice Minister Yuri Kalinin recently visited the House of Lords in Britain to tell its members about reform of the Russian prison system. 'Today the whole of Europe acknowledges that Russia's prison system is developing dynamically and changing from a punitive structure to a structure aimed at rehabilitation,' the minister said. He also announced that he had signed an order on the creation of 'a public council on the rights of prisoners within the ministry.' The council will include representatives of human rights organisations.

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