Two homosexual men are feared to be in "mortal danger" after Russian police sent them back to Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region from where the men fled to avoid persecution. The men, who were handed to the Chechen police, were pressured to refuse legal services, according to a Russian LGBT rights group.
Salekh Magamadov, 18, and his 17-year-old partner were detained by Federal Security Service (FSB) earlier this week from Nizhny Novgorod — located in the east of Moscow — and brought at a police station in Gudermes on Saturday. The police did not provide any reason for their detention.
"They are tired and frightened," the Russian LGBT Network Tim Bestvet told Agence France-Presse on Saturday. "All this time they were being pressured to refuse a lawyer."
Bestvet told AFP that a lawyer with the Russian LGBT Network was in Gudermes trying to get access to Magamadov and his partner.
"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," he explained, adding that the two men faced "mortal danger."
Last June, the Russian LGBT Network helped Magamadov and his partner to leave Chechnya, where they were detained for moderating Telegram channel Osal Nakh 95 that is critical of the government. However, Bestsvet reportedly said that they were detained for "because of their sexual orientation." The men were also forced to film an apology video, in which they said "they weren't men."
According to Bestsvet, since Magamadov's partner is below 18 he can refuse an attorney through his parents. The teen's father arrived at the police station on Saturday and reportedly faced pressured to refuse to let his son have legal representation.
Chechnya, a Muslim-majority region ruled by Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov, has been known for its widespread homophobia. Since 2016, the local law enforcement officials heavily cracked down gays, lesbians and bisexuals. They were abducted, imprisoned and even tortured, according to reports.
So far, there have been four waves of crackdown on the region's LGBT community. The first wave began in December 2016 and continued till February 2017, the second from March 2017 till May 2017, the third wave started in June 2017 and the fourth in December 2018, LGBTQ Nation reported. However, Kadyrov claimed that Chechnya did not have homosexuals.
In a May 2019 report, Human Rights Watch said that detained homosexual men were subjected to humiliation and physical abuse. Four men, who were detained between December 2018 and February 2019, told Human Rights Watch that police officers kicked them, beat them with sticks and polypropylene pipes, and tortured them with electric shocks. One of the men was raped with a stick, according to the advocacy group.
However, Kadyrov's office denied the claims of abuse.