A Polish court on Friday freed Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev after a temporary arrest, and after Russia issued an arrest warrant accusing him of terrorism.
The arrest of the Chechen leader came when he entered Poland from Britain to participate in an International Conference on Chechnya's future.
The Kremlin in 2001 put the Chechen leader onto Interpol’s international wanted list, accusing him of involvement in terrorism, murder, and kidnapping.
Zakayev is known to have been former a field commander, minister of culture, and deputy prime minister in a cabinet with the late separatist president of the unrecognized republic of Ichkeria (Chechnya), Aslan Maskhadov.
Zakayev has acted as a representative of the Chechen government in exile in the West since he escaped from Russia’s North Caucasus. Since then, he has been living in Britain.
Before receiving political asylum by the British government in 2004, he was arrested in Denmark in 2002, but the court rejected the Russian charges.
According to the court decision, Zakayev can leave Poland whenever he wishes. However, the Polish District Court’s Secretary Vojtsekh Malek told Russian news agency ITAR-TASS that the court decision was not final and the prosecutor’s office could make an appeal.
Russian authorities have not yet responded to the decision. Earlier, Polish officials said that Poland was an independent country and would not give in to outside political interests.
“Because of [the warrant] Poland is to take certain actions according to the law. But it does not mean that we will follow Russia’s orders,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters on Friday.
Since Kremlin-backed Ramzan Kadyrov took office in 2007, the Chechen capital Grozny has been largely reconstructed, with life returning to normal after two large-scale wars in the North Caucasus since 1994.
Over 5,000 people disappeared between 2000 and 2004 during extensive military activities, say human rights groups. The Russian human rights organization Memorial says the abductions were aimed at threatening ordinary civilians not to resist the government’s activities.
Russian and international human rights organizations hold Kadyrov responsible for the persecution of dissidents and human rights activists in the Chechen Republic, and accuse him of imposing an authoritarian regime in the country.