London's Magistrates' Court in Bow Street is about to appoint the date of the main hearings of the case concerning the extradition of Maskhadov's emissary Akhmed Zakayev to Russia, a source in the court's office told RIA Novosti.
Chaired by Judge Timothy Workman, the court session begins at 11 o'clock in the morning local time and ends quite soon. It is expected that the judge will hear the sides' declarations of readiness and afterwards appoint the date of the main hearings.
According to law experts, the appointment will mean in fact that the extradition procedure enters a new phase, namely that when the sides will be given a chance to declare their positions and debate them. Afterwards, the judge will make a decision. The process may take one day or more, the experts said.
It was announced during the last session held on January 31 that the court procedure dealing with Zakayev's extradition had begun in accordance with an order issued by the British home secretary, which provided legal grounds for hearing the case in court.
The last court session was held in Zakayev's presence and lasted less than 10 minutes. The judge listened to the witnesses for the prosecution and defence, who asked to be given time to prepare the materials. The next hearing was booked for February 14.
Zakayev's lawyer Gareth Pierce, who spoke to RIA Novosti after the court session, said the procedure would "take long because such cases always take a lot of time." British experts supported this opinion, saying Zakayev's extradition may take a year and more, by analogy with similar cases involving extradition of people accused of terrorist activities.
A source in Britain's Royal Prosecutor's Service told RIA Novosti that the materials handed over by the Russian side, the ones that dealt with Zakayev's crimes /hostage-taking, murders, and other criminal offences/ were "very serious." Earlier, Russia's deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinsky told Russian journalists in London that the British side had been provided with all the materials necessary to solve the extradition problem.
Zakayev's guilt is proved by materials containing the examination of witnesses and the injured parties. According to Fridinsky, new materials were provided in addition to the evidence the Danish authorities had been supplied with last year. The materials included examination of an injured party and witnesses of an episode dealing with Zakayev's criminal activities in Chechnya.
Zakayev was arrested on December 5, 2002, upon his arrival at Heathrow from Denmark. The arrest was made on the grounds of an international warrant issued in connection with the crimes he had committed on Russian territory. Further on however, Maskhadov's emissary was released on 50,000 pounds bail provided by the British actress Vanessa Redgrave.
At this moment, Zakayev is hiding in the actress's house in Chelsea, an elite district of London. Lawyer expenses are being paid by the entrepreneur Boris Berezovsky, who also paid Zakayev's expenses in Denmark.