Salek Magamadov and Ismail Isayev have been detained on terrorism charges in Chechnya, but activists say it’s because they are gay. (Russian LGBT Network)
Chechnya has offered state protection to two gay men at risk of honour killings by their families after the state forcefully returned them home.
Salek Magamadov and Ismail Isayev, who has just turned 18, fled to Russia in June, 2020, with the help of the Russian LGBT Network, after they were tortured in Chechnya, the site of deadly so-called gay purges, for running an opposition Telegram channel.
They were relocated by the group to an apartment in the Russian city of Nizhny Novogorod near Moscow, but were forcefully returned to their hometown of Gudermes, Chechnya, in February, 2021, by both Russian and Chechen police.
After being transported back to Chechnya by the authorities, the two men were held in a detention centre, without access to lawyers, and charged with terrorism and aiding an illegal armed group.
According to Russian news site Meduza, the network that has been working to help Magamadov and Isayev said the men’s friends and families had actually been encouraged by Chechen police to perform “honour killings”.
But in a strange turn of events, the gay men have now been offered state protection in Chechnya, to prevent the “honour killings” from happening.
According to the Moscow Times, the Russian LGBT Network successfully petitioned the country’s investigative committee to protect the men, although there has been no clarification on what this protection will look like.
Alexander Nemov, the lawyer who is fighting their case, said: “The state has recognized that Magamadov and Isayev are under threat of danger”.
Last month, their lawyers were finally allowed access to the two men, and they were able to give accounts of what happened, describing the “physical and psychological violence” they suffered at the hands of police, and how they were forced to sign fabricated confessions to the terrorism charges.
Magamadov said: “The police officer took me to another office, grabbed my chest, hit me twice against the wall, I had to answer that I would sign an agreement with the appointed lawyer.
“Then the police officer explained to me: ‘If you try to resist us, then I am ready to kill you, even in the courtroom. I’m not a man if I won’t kill you.’”
Nemov expressed his determination fight for the two men, and said in a statement: “This case is 100 per cent political, there is nothing at all, no evidence.
“And yes, we understand that this is Chechnya and Chechen ‘special’ justice.
“But let’s be honest – Chechen law enforcement officers have never faced such pressure before.”