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Update: Chechen court rules abduction of gay refugees is legal

Rachel Badham March 1, 2021

A court in the Russian region of Chechnya has ruled that it was legal for police to abduct two gay refugees and return them to Chechen authorities. Salekh Magamadov, 20, and Ismail Isteyev, 17, escaped the Chechen region with the help of the Russian LGBT Network after they were detained and tortured for suspected homosexuality. However, at the beginning of February, they were captured by Chechen security forces and returned to authorities. 

According to a local news source, the men are officially being persecuted for providing assistance to an illegal armed group after confessing to doing so, however a lawyer from the Russian LGBT Network said: “The confessions were most likely obtained through threats and pressure.” The pair are now facing up to 15 years imprisonment. The kidnapping and persecution of Magamadov and Isteyev is part of Chechnya’s crackdown on the LGBTQ+ community. 

A so-called ‘gay purge’ took place in 2017, where dozens of LGBTQ+ people were seized and tortured or killed by local authorities. Chechen representatives have continuously dismissed the allegations by saying homosexuality doesn’t exist in Chechnya, and that people who are gay can’t be Chechen. In response to the situation, US activists are calling on Joe Biden to intervene, with a handful of advocacy groups such as RUSA LGBT and Voices4 issuing a joint statement to the president: “We call on you to issue an emergency declaration and publicly condemn this gross violation of human rights when two individuals face sure death at the hands of the Russian government.”

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