Chechen brothers tortured by police in Russia after supporting LGBTQ+ rights have appeal denied

Russian riot police detained gay rights activists holding a LGBTQ+ rainbow flag

Two brothers who were kidnapped, tortured and jailed by police in Chechnya, Russia, after supporting LGBTQ+ rights, have had their appeal for freedom rejected.

Today (25 October) a regional court in Pyatigorsk heard Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev appeal against their sentences of eight and six years in prison, respectively.

Magamadov and Isayev were convicted for allegedly providing food to a member of an illegal armed group, and the pair appealed their convictions on false and politically motivated charges, the Human Rights Watch revealed.

The brothers claim they were forced confess to aiding the armed group by police.

The LGBTQ+ siblings attended the meeting via video but failed to have their sentences overturned.

According to the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Right, from 2017 to 2020, Chechen security forces arrested, imprisoned and tortured more than 150 people, most of who were gay or bisexual men.

It comes as Russia’s parliament proposed a law that would legalise throwing out foreign nationals found to be pushing LGBTQ+ “propaganda”.

‘Long standing pattern of persecution’

Lawyers for the Magamadov and Isayev insisted the case be reviewed by a court outside of Chechnya, and throughout the appeal pointed out the inconsistency of the accusation and numerous violations surrounding the convictions.

Ahead of the meeting, global human rights organisations spoke in defence of the brothers and emphasised their innocence and the political nature of their case.

The pair were detained in 2020 for chatting on a Telegram group where they criticised Chechen authorities, and spoke in support of LGBTQ+ people.

Prior to the failed appeal, Magamadov and Isayev wanted to get justice for the torture they were subjected to, and hoped to see their convictions nullified so they could be freed. 

Associate Europe and Central Asia director at the Human Rights Watch, Tanya Lokshina, said: “The injustice against Magamadov and Isayev could not be more stark, and their freedom and well-being are at stake.

“The abuse against them is part of a long-standing pattern of persecution of critics by Chechen authorities,” Lokshina added. 

Participating in the bid to see the brothers freed was the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Watch.

Why did Russia police arrest Magamadov and IsayevIsayev?

Magamadov and Isayev were detained by Chechen authorities in 2020 for “activity on opposition messenger chats in support of LGBTQ+ people”. 

This activity was their participation in a group named “Osal nakh 95” on Telegram, where they criticised Chechen authority’s LGBTQ+ rights and shared support for the queer community. Following this they were held for several months in basement cells at a police station. 

Magamadov and Isayev were released without charge after authorities forced them to be film an “apology” video that was published online. However, a criminal complaint filed by the brothers revealed they were tortured by the police.

In a bid to stay safe they sought the help of North Caucasus SOS Crisis Group, which helps LGBTIQ+ people in North Caucasus regions, including Chechnya.

With help from the group, the brothers took refuge in a crisis shelter in the Nizhny Novgorod region, but on 4 February 2021 Chechen authorities kidnapped the brothers. 

Two days later Magamadov and Isayev told their lawyer that Chechen police had forced them to confess to aiding an illegal armed group member.

This confession followed the lawyer being banned from seeing them until interrogation had ended. 

On 22 February this year the Achkhoy-Martanovsky district court of the Chechen Republic imposed the brothers sentences, which were later upheld on appeal by the Chechnya’s Supreme Court.

‘Brutal campaign’

Human Rights Watch said authorities declined to investigate following the defence filing criminal complaints about their mistreatment in 2020 and during their pre-trial detention. 

“The torture, kidnapping and prosecution against Isayev and Magamadov is just one example of the brutal campaign against dissent in Chechnya,” Human Rights Watch added.

The organisation claim Chechen authorities “regularly and violently persecute people they presume to be LGBTQ+”. 

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