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Danish to Hold Public Debate on Chechnya

The Danish capital, Copenhagen, will host a public debate on Chechnya Friday. The gathering comes less than a month after Denmark infuriated Russian authorities by allowing a world congress of Chechen exiles to be held, days after Chechen rebels seized a Moscow theater. This second meeting will be held in the Danish parliament.

The Danish Socialist People's Party is sponsoring the day-long debate, along with a loose-knit group organized to support the detained Chechen envoy Ahmed Zakayev. Mr. Zakayev, an actor who served as minister of culture in the Chechen government headed by separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, was arrested last month in Copenhagen after Russia requested his extradition on terrorism charges.

Socialist People's Party chairman Holger Kogh Nielsen says the Friday debate is being held to keep the Chechen issue in the public eye as Danish authorities consider the merits of the Russian extradition request.

Among those scheduled to participate are at least one member of the lower house of Russia's parliament, representatives of a Russian anti-war group known as the Soldiers' Mothers' Committee, and actress Vanessa Redgrave, a friend and supporter of Mr. Zakayev.

A court ruling on the Russian extradition request is expected next week. Danish officials said Tuesday the evidence sent by Moscow to support the request was insufficient, and contained inconsistencies in translations. A justice ministry official said the Russian documents do not fulfill the formal requirements under the European Convention on extradition. He said the ministry has asked Russian authorities for further clarification.

The request is based on allegations that Mr. Zakayev committed crimes from 1996 to 1999, during the time he served in the Maskhadov government. That government was later dismissed by the Kremlin, which declared its election invalid and installed its own pro-Moscow administration.