Gay Chechens returned to country by Russian authorities after fleeing torture, LGBT group says

Two gay men are in “mortal danger” after they were returned to Chechnya after fleeing to Russia to escape torture, an LGBT rights group monitoring the region has warned.

Salekh Magamadov, 20, and Ismail Isayev, 17, were apprehended by Russian police at a house in Nizhny Novgorod, to the east of Moscow, the Russian LGBT Network said.

The charity added it had helped the men flee to Russia last year to escape the police in their home region.

The pair, who were detained in April 2020 on charges they had been moderators of a political opposition group on the chat app Telegram, both claim they were subjected to torture in their homeland and forced to record apology videos.

They took refuge in Nizhny Novgorod but were forcibly returned to Chechnyan authorities.

The St Petersburg-based LGBT Network said it had received a panicked phone call from the young men in which screaming could be heard in the background.

Arriving half an hour later, lawyer Alexander Nemov found signs of a struggle and the men were gone.

“Saleh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev were detained by the police in their apartment”, the group said on Twitter last week.

“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 being returned to the Chechen town of Gudermes they have been questioned and detained by security forces and denied access to a lawyer, the group added.

Chechnya, a Russian republic, has been accused of perpetrating the systematic detention and torture of LGBT+ people.

The region’s authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who maintains close ties to Moscow, has previously suggested LGBT+ people should be deported to “purify our blood”.

Chechen authorities were accused of enacting a purge of LGBT+ people in the spring of 2017, which Human Rights Watch say resumed in 2019.

“There wasn’t anything remotely resembling an effective investigation into the anti-gay purge of 2017, when Chechen police rounded up and tortured dozens of men they suspected of being gay,” Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said at the time.

“Impunity for the 2017 anti-gay purge has sanctioned a new wave of torture and humiliation in Chechnya.”

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