Two gay men are in danger after police in Russia arrested them and returned them to Chechnya after they fled to escape torture, an LGBTIQ NGO warns.
The Russian LGBT Network, based in St Petersburg, has helped hundreds of persecuted queer people in Chechnya flee to safety.
The Network said in a statement that Russian police apprehended Salekh Magamadov, 20, and Ismail Isayev, 17, at a house in Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow.
The group had previously helped the men flee Chechnya. Police detained the pair in April 2020 on charges they had moderated an online political opposition group.
Both men claim they were tortured in Chechnya and forced to record apology videos.
The LGBT Network said they received a panicked phone call from the men and could also hear screaming in the background.
Arriving at the house half an hour later, lawyer Alexander Nemov found signs of a struggle. The two men weren’t there.
After making inquiries, the lawyer later determined the Russian police had handed the two men over to Chechen authorities.
The LGBT Network fear the two men are in mortal danger while in Chechen detention.
“Saleh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev were detained by the police in their apartment,” the group tweeted.
“The Russian LGBT Network helped Saleh and Ismail leave Chechnya and move to Nizhny Novgorod.”
“Now they are being taken by car back to Chechnya.”
Since returning to Chechnya, the two men have been questioned and detained by security forces, the group added.
Authorities have also denied the men access to a lawyer.
Chechnya leader denies allegations of ‘gay purge’
Human rights groups have claimed Chechnya, a Russian republic, has systematically detained and tortured LGBTIQ people.
Leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied the allegations of the illegal detentions, violence and human rights abuses.
He and other Chechen officials have even claimed there aren’t any LGBTIQ people in Chechnya.
But the Russian LGBT Network has monitored the abuses in Chechnya since 2017. Some victims of the violence, dubbed Chechnya’s “gay purge”, have also spoken out.
In 2019, the LGBT Network claimed authorities had begun a fresh wave of persecution and claimed people had died.
Last year, an incredible HBO documentary by David France showed the brave activists’ work in helping persecuted LGBTIQ Chechens reach safety.
Lack of action over Chechnya’s ‘gay purge’
After Chechnya’s anti-gay violence first emerged in 2017, a lack of action has allowed it to continue, Human Rights Watch says.
“There wasn’t anything remotely resembling an effective investigation into the anti-gay purge of 2017,” HRW deputy Europe and Central Asia director Rachel Denber said in 2019.
“Chechen police rounded up and tortured dozens of men they suspected of being gay.
“Impunity for the 2017 anti-gay purge has sanctioned a new wave of torture and humiliation in Chechnya.”
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