Latvia and Britain accused of harboring terrorists

  • 2001-09-20
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - Russia astonished Council of Europe representatives on a visit to Moscow Sept. 13-14 that Latvia, Great Britain and Turkey are on a list of countries that support the armed Chechen uprising and other military struggles and clashes in the northern Caucasus, the Russian news wire service Interfax reported this week.

These European countries join Afghanistan and Azerbaijan on the list, allegedly presented to the delegation by Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov.

Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles has denied either seeing or hearing about such a blacklist.

He did say, however, that he had been given a list of legal cases initiated against criminal groups hiding in Chechnya.

Dmitri Marchenkov, a journalist writing for the Council of Europe's news wire service, told The Baltic Times that he had spoken to Gil-Robles personally and that the commissioner had denied the Interfax report.

"But," Marchenkov said, "there were, of course, other Council of Europe representatives present in Moscow at the same time," hinting that the possibility was there that the news report could still be valid.

"The Russian authorities do not believe that the governments on the list are the same as extremist centers that are known to operate in these countries," Ustinov was reported by Interfax as saying. "The information on support given to terrorists in Russia from abroad has been collected through criminal proceedings related to Islamic extremist operations in the Caucasus."

Vilmars Henins, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Latvia, said ministry officials requested more information from Russia on this matter on Sept. 17.

"First of all we would like to get official confirmation from Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also from its prosecutor general's office," Henins said. "But their reply could take several days."

In answer to the allegation that terrorist groups operate out of Britain, which has also been made in both the British and international press, Lelde Pfafrode, spokeswoman for the British Embassy in Latvia, commented: "Under the Terrorism Act enforced in Britain at the beginning of this year, Great Britain is not allowed by law to fund any terrorist activities. Since this act came into force, some extremists have moved out of the country, while some organizations have changed their name. Britain is taking all possible measures against terrorism."