A local Chechen court on Tuesday jailed queer siblings Salekh Magamadov (21) and Ismail Isaev (19) to almost a decade behind bars after finding them guilty of “complicity with illegal armed formations”.

The siblings had first come to the notice of authorities in 2019 after an officer found an LGBTQI Pride flag on Ismail’s phone. Chechen authorities had detained Salekh and Ismail last year, after the siblings tried to flee persecution. 

“Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, in a statement released prior to the sentencing. Amnesty said that one of the siblings identifies as gay and the other is in the process of gender transitioning. 

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“They should never have been charged in the first place. Belonging to the LGBTI community in Chechnya — or anywhere else for that matter — is not a crime. Nobody should be detained for their sexual orientation or gender identity or for criticizing the authorities. Their ordeal must end now.”

Torture And Fabricated Charges

According to Amnesty International, Salekh and Ismail have “have faced a barrage of rights violations, including torture, at the hands of the Chechen authorities.”

Russian LGBT network North Caucasus SOS said that Salekh was sentenced to eight years in jail, which included one year in prison and seven years in a strict regime colony. Ismail was sentenced to six years in a common regime colony. 

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Salekh and Ismail, had moved to the city of Nizhny Novgorod in July 2020 and were planning to flee to Russia. However, authorities abducted them and took them back to Chechnya in February 2021.

According to rights groups, the siblings were booked under the country’s anti-terrorism laws on fabricated charges for allegedly providing groceries to a Chechen militant. The siblings were moderators of a  youth-led Telegram channel that contained posts critical of the Chechen authorities. The evidence relied on by the authorities were based on “apology videos ” that the siblings were forced to make while in custody. 

Chechnya has been accused of persecuting LGBTQI people in its anti-gay purges in 2017 and 2019. The US and European Union blacklisted Ayub Kataev, head of the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry in Chechnya, a known persecutor of LGBTQ+ people and Abuzayed Vismuradov, the commander of the Terek Special Rapid Responses Team.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

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