Gay torture victims held on terror charges in Chechnya without a shred of proof

Gay men Salek Magamadov and Ismail Isayev held in Chechnya

Two gay men are being held on terror charges in Chechnya, having escaped torture in the homophobic republic before being returned by Russian police.

Salek Magamadov and Ismail Isayev, who is just 17 years old, fled to Russia in June 2020 with the help of the Russian LGBT Network.

They were relocated by the group to Nizhny Novogorod, a city around 400 kilometres east of Moscow, having been tortured by the Chechen special police for running an opposition Telegram channel.

Earlier this month, the two gay men went missing and it was later revealed they had been forcefully returned to their hometown, Gudermes in Chechnya, the site of deadly so-called gay purges. Russian and Chechen police reportedly worked together to capture the men.

The men were left “in mortal danger”, after their lawyer followed them to Chechnya and found they were being “pressured” to refuse legal representation.

Now, the Russian LGBT Network has been informed that the men are being held on the terrorism charge of aiding an illegal armed group.

The network said in a statement: “The investigation, however, did not provide objective evidence of the guilt of Ismail Isaev and Salekh Magamadov.”

On 8 February, the European Court of Human Rights “ordered Russia to explain the reasons for the detention of Magamadov and Isaev, to admit independent lawyers, medical workers, and their next of kin to them”.

But despite the order, legal representatives were not able to see their clients.

Sayputy Isaev, the 17-year-old’s father, said he was beaten and “blackmailed with the life of his son” if he did not sign a statement on the minor’s behalf to refuse a lawyer.

Magamadov and Isayev’s case is currently being considered, and they could face up to 15 years in prison in Chechnya. The men themselves said that “they had to sign statements and testimonies under threats and pressure”.

They are currently being held in SIZO no. 2, a pre-trial detention centre in Grozny, Chechnya.

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.