Russian Rights Group Warns That Detained Gay Men Face 'Mortal Danger' In Chechnya

The Russian LGBT Network has warned that two young gay men from Chechnya who were seized in Nizhny Novgorod and driven by car back to the North Caucasus region face "mortal danger."

The Russian NGO reported on its Telegram channel on February 6 that Salekh Magamadov, 18, and a 17-year-old companion had arrived at a police station in Gudermes after being detained by Federal Security Service (FSB) officers earlier this week.

The reason for their detentions in Nizhny Novgorod remains unknown, the LGBT Network reported on its website, adding that one of its lawyers was not being granted access to the detainees prior to their interrogation.

RFE/RL is not revealing the identity of the second man because he is a minor.

The LGBT Network helped both men leave Chechnya and settle in Nizhny Novgorod in July. After police arrived at their apartment on February 4, one of the men contacted the NGO asking for help and its emergency-assistance coordinator reported hearing screaming from unknown people in the background, the LGBT Network wrote on its website.

After arriving on the scene, a lawyer for the LGBT Network noticed that a scuffle had taken place in the men's apartment and was able to confirm that the two men had been detained by police and were being taken by car to Gudermes, Chechnya.

The LGBT Network became involved in the men's case after they were both detained in April 2020 in Chechnya, the Russian region ruled by Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.

According to the LGBT Network the two men had been illegally detained at a notorious prison in the Chechen capital in relation to their involvement as moderators on the opposition Telegram channel Osal Nakh 95.

The two were tortured and humiliated by Chechen special police, according to the rights group, and were later seen in videos published on the Internet in which they can be seen apologizing, apparently under duress, saying "they weren't men."

The predominantly Muslim region of Russia’s North Caucasus was in 2017 accused of carrying out a brutal “purge” targeting sexual minorities, despite Kadyrov's denials and claims that "we don't have any gays" in Chechnya. In 2019, the LGBT Network reported a second wave of persecution against gays.

"They are tired and frightened," LGBT Network spokesperson Time Bestsvet told AFP on January 6. "All this time they were being pressured to refuse a lawyer."

According to Bestsvet, the father of the detained minor was being pressured to refuse to let his son see an attorney. Bestsvet said the rights group was working to gain access to the men, whom he said faced "mortal danger."

"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," Bestsvet said.

With reporting by AFP