London, Nov. 29 (Reuters): Chechen rebel leader Akhmed Zakayev, charged with murder and kidnapping by Russia, has been granted asylum in Britain, the home office said today.
Russia, which sees its fight against Chechen rebels as part of the global “war on terrorism”, has already criticised Britain’s decision not to extradite Zakayev, accusing London of double standards.
The EU has criticised Russia for human rights abuses in Chechnya. Zakayev has been in Britain since December last year and requested asylum within days of his arrival.
He said he feared he would be killed if he returned to Russia, which accuses him of atrocities dating from the first of two wars in the breakaway Russian region from 1994-96.
Earlier this month Britain rejected Russia’s bid to extradite him, saying there was a substantial risk he would be tortured if he were sent to Moscow for trial.
That decision drew an angry response from Moscow, warning of damage to otherwise friendly Russian-British relations.
“We can confirm Zakayev has been granted refugee status. His application (for asylum) has been successful,” a home office spokesman said.
Russia had sought to extradite Zakayev on 13 charges from the mid-1990s.