Chechen Brothers Handed Lengthy Prison Terms Amid Outcry From Rights Groups

By Caucasus.Realities

ACHKHOI-MARTAN, Russia -- A court in Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya has sentenced two brothers to lengthy prison terms amid demands from human rights groups to release them.

The Achkhoi-Martan district court on February 22 found 20-year-old Salekh Magamadov and 18-year-old Ismail Isayev guilty of complicity with illegal armed groups and sentenced them to eight and six years in prison, respectively.

The two brothers pleaded not guilty. Their defense lawyers said the court's ruling will be appealed.

One of the lawyers, Mark Alekseyev, said the court's decision was linked to the two brothers' sexual orientations and their involvement in the activities of the opposition Telegram channel Osal Nakh 95.

The charge against the two brothers stemmed from their providing food to a man who later was recognized as a member of an illegal armed group.

Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of the brothers, one of whom is gay and the other is gender-transitioning.

The two have been in a detention center in Chechnya's capital, Grozny, since February 2021.

In September, the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center, which was recently ordered by Russian authorities to shut its doors, recognized the siblings as political prisoners and said their case was "marred with blatant violations."

In July 2020, the Russian LGBT Network helped Magamadov and Isayev move to the city of Nizhny Novgorod, from which they planned to leave Russia for an unspecified foreign country. But they were abducted from a flat provided by a local NGO and taken to Chechnya a year ago.

The volatile region's government and its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007, are frequently accused by Russian and international activists of overseeing grave human rights abuses that include abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings.