Guardian:MI5 warns of plot to assassinate Chechen refugee in UK
- MI5 warns of plot to assassinate Chechen refugee in UK
Theresa May in court bid to deport Russian suspected of involvement in conspiracy to murder British-based separatist
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 1 April 2012 18.21 BST
Former politician Akhmed Zakayev has asylum status in the UK and is feared to be a target for assassination. Photograph: Martin Hayhow/AFP/Getty Images
The home secretary is fighting a legal battle to deport a Russian man described as a danger to national security and suspected of involvement in an apparent plot to murder a British-based Chechen separatist.
MI5 is reported to have warned Theresa May that the suspect, known as E1, is the middleman in a potential conspiracy to kill Akhmed Zakayev, a Chechen actor turned politician.
Court papers seen by the Sunday Telegraph suggest MI5 believes that Zakayev a politician in the breakaway Russian republic before fleeing to London in 2002 and winning asylum is in danger from Chechnya's pro-Moscow president Ramzan Kadyrov, who allegedly wants him dead.
According to the papers, MI5 issued a specific warning to judges, telling them: "Kadyrov, who had been responsible for the assassination of a number of his opponents, has a blacklist of individuals, some of whom he wished to have assassinated, and the exiled prime minister of Chechnya, Akhmed Zakayev, a refugee living in the UK, was believed to be on this list."
The Home Office also told the court that an attack on Zakayev "would be likely to be facilitated through [E1] who would be well-placed to provide valuable information".
MI5 said that E1 was involved in the murder of a former Kadyrov bodyguard who was shot dead in Austria in 2009.
Despite the warnings, however, E1 has successfully challenged May's decision to exclude him in the court of appeal.
E1 and his family came to the UK in 2003 and claimed asylum from the war in Chechnya. Although he was granted indefinite leave to remain and his wife and children have become British citizens, he was refused citizenship three years ago.
The court papers suggest his situation changed in 2010, when he was out of the country. On 11 May that year the day the coalition took power the home secretary "personally directed" his exclusion.
Though he was told not to return to the UK and warned he was not entitled to start an appeal from inside the country, he arrived at Heathrow, where he is understood to have been detained by waiting members of the security services.
His lawyers have since begun a legal challenge, saying that E1 should have the right to appeal "in country" under immigration rules dating back to 2003.
After progressing through different courts, his appeal was eventually heard and granted by three senior appeal court judges last month.
The Home Office is continuing its fight to have E1 removed. "The government's highest priority is to protect public safety and national security," said a spokeswoman. "Where a foreign national poses a threat to this country, we will seek to deport them."
Zakayev is a friend of the actor Vanessa Redgrave, who stood bail of £50,000 for him after he was arrested on arrival in the UK 10 years ago.
He told the Sunday Telegraph that there were more Russian spies in Britain today than during the cold war.
"I think the British authorities know this and the British security service knows this," he said. "Nothing will change until Vladimir Putin loses his position in Russia. They will continue to attempt to harm me, and all their political enemies."
German Gorbuntsov, a Russian banker, was shot and critically wounded in east London a fortnight ago.
The shooting was the most high-profile attack on a Russian in London since the dissident Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in the capital in 2006.