Bad News for Akhmed Zakayev

On Friday Akhmed Zakayev is to appear before London's magistrates court in low spirits. And it is not surprising. Since the last hearings several weeks ago, Britain has been increasingly favouring his extradition to Russia.

Over that period, Britain has experienced a physical sensation of being a fly trapped in the international terrorist web. On January 5, the police discovered an amateur laboratory in Wood Green, a quiet London suburb, where five North Africans were making ricin. A grain of this poison is enough to kill a human. In the following weeks, Scotland Yard carried out three raids, including one at the London mosque, which resulted in detaining 10 more alleged terrorists. As if to prove his deadly skills, one of the detainees stabbed a policeman.

The British public was shocked to learn that some of those arrested were trained to make ricin from beans and stab policemen to death in Chechen rebels' camps. It was a revelation to Britain. Suddenly many UK citizens, including the dispassionate judges of London's Bow Street magistrates court who are to hear Zakayev's extradition case, came to realise what kind of forces stood behind that well-mannered ex-actor in a double-breasted European suit. Those were Islamist haters of the civilised West who had been accumulating chemical weapons for terrorist attacks against the British capital.

In a couple of weeks Chechnya ceased to be an exclusively Russian issue. People who had been possibly trained to kill and destroy by the ex-field commander Akhmed Zakayev showed up in Britain to demonstrate their skills.

It was as if the wahhabite Ichkeria of Zakayev and Maskhadov came to Britain to become its domestic issue. As if Ulster was not enough for Albion.

His own experience turned Zakayev into a perfect trainer for young combatants. Recruits in Chechen militant camps trained to conduct deadly attacks against the world, including Britain, must have praised him. The Russian Prosecutor's Office accuses Zakayev of forming illegal bandit formations, killing 302 people, including two clergymen, captivity and mutilation, any of which could have been subjects of his camp lectures.

As to the Chechens, they do not want to return to Shariah courts, public executions and legal slavery - that Wahhabite inquisition carried out in the years when Akhmed Zakayev was Minister of Culture and later on Deputy Prime Minister of the de-facto independent Republic of Ichkeria.

But there is more bad news for Zakayev. Not only his ideology, but his legal status in Britain are collapsing. On January 10, 2003 Britain officially recognised Russia member of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism signed on January 27, 1977.

This move has taken the wind out of Zakayev's sails. The Convention deprives the alleged terrorist of an opportunity to justify his actions by political reasons and thus avoid extradition. Zakayev's lawyer Gareth Peirce can now speak volubly of her defendant being "a prominent Chechen political figure," "a fighter for his country's independence" and "mediator in political negotiations." Under the convention, politics is weak evidence against participation in terrorist groups, killings and hostage taking all of which are incriminated to Zakayev.

But the worst is yet to come for the Chechen Envoy. Lately, he has been hoping to be set free after the London court hearings on Friday. Early in January Gareth Peirce said, "I hope that our Home Secretary will follow the example of the Danish authorities and will not authorise hearings on Zakayev's extradition case." The shrewd lawyer and her defendant were in for a heavy blow. On Wednesday British Home Secretary David Blunkett signed an injunction authorising the launch of Zakayev's extradition proceedings. The British legal mechanism has been put into operation and there is no way of stopping it.

Pinochet's extradition shows that the meticulous British Themis will turn Zakayev into a ball throwing him from low instance courts to higher legal echelons, until the case reaches the House of Lords. The ping-pong game with Pinochet's case lasted 500 days. Unfortunately for Zakayev, he has not got the Chile dictator's trump card - fragile health. Maskhadov's Envoy is as strong as an ox.

Thus, he will be strong enough to board Russia-bound flight sooner or later.