Gay men sent back to Chechnya by Russian police are in ‘mortal danger’ with no access to a lawyer

Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya

Two gay men who escaped torture in Chechnya but were returned by Russia police are in “mortal danger” with no access to a lawyer, the Russian LGBT Network has said.

Salek Magamadov and Ismail Isayev, who is just 17 years old, managed to escape to Russia from Chechnya, the site of deadly so-called gay purges, in June 2020.

Having been tortured by the Chechen special police for running an opposition Telegram channel, the Magamadov and Isayev were relocated by the Russian LGBT Network to Nizhny Novogorod, a city around 400 kilometres east of Moscow.

But on Thursday (4 February), the Russian LGBT Network reported that the pair had gone missing and when their lawyer, Alexander Nemov, rushed to their apartment he found signs of a struggle.

It was later revealed that the men had been handed over the Chechen police and forcefully returned to their hometown, Gudermes.

The Russian LGBT Network has now provided an update on their situation, and insisted the two men are in “mortal danger”.

Nemov said he found out that Magamadov and Isayev had been captured by both Russian and Chechen authorities, who were working together, and that the gay men had been taken back to Chechnya by car.

He followed them there, but authorities refused to tell him where his clients were being held or the reason they were being detained.

On Saturday (6 February), Magamadov and Isayev were moved to the interior ministry in Gudermes. The Russian LGBT Network reported that they appeared “exhausted and intimidated”, and that they had been “pushed” to decline legal representation.

The two men were then moved again, this time to the village of Sernovodskoe, and Nemov followed with members of the men’s families.

Once they arrived, he was again refused the opportunity to see or speak with his clients, and was forced to file “complaints and applications” from the street outside.  The Russian LGBT Network sent a second lawyer to Sernovodskoe, who was also denied access.

Russian LGBT Network spokesperson Tim Bestsvet told Moscow Times that the men are in “mortal danger”.

He said: “They are tired and frightened. All this time they were being pressured to refuse a lawyer.

“There have been cases when relatives brought back to Chechnya people that we had evacuated and then these people would die or, we can say, were probably murdered.”

In 2017, reports began to emerge of a “gay purge” in Chechnya, involving mass detention, abductions, torture and abuse of human rights against the LGBT+ community. Reports of such atrocities have continued in the years since.

The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadryov, has denied the reports as well the existence of any LGBT+ people in the region. He was hit with sanctions by the US government in July 2020 over the atrocities.

The UK government also ordered strict sanctions to be placed upon three top Chechen officials charged with torturing LGBT+ people in the region’s “gay purge” in December 2020.