Reports: Chechen Authorities Arrest 20 Relatives of Gay Brothers

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday March 25, 2021

In a chilling move consistent with totalitarian states, Chechen authorities reportedly carried out a mass arrest of 20 related to two gay brothers who had fled the Russian province, only to be arrested by Russian police and sent back.

Moscow Times reported a Russian broadcaster, Dozh, had contact from Moscow-based LGBT Network, a rights organization that advocates on the behalf of Salekh Magamadov, 20, and Ismail Isayev, 18.

According to the advocacy group, the men's "relatives were held in an unknown location for two hours Tuesday as police sought the whereabouts of the men's parents."

Like their sons, who had escaped Chechnya last year after reportedly being arrested and tortured for operating a dissident information channel on social media, "Magamadov and Isayev's parents fled the republic of Chechnya," the Moscow Times reported.

Their flight came "after police forced their father to waive his right to counsel," according to Dozh, Moscow Times added.

As reported at EDGE at the time, the brothers were snatched from their apartment in the Russian city of Novgorod by Russian police last month and returned to Chechenya.

The story garnered international attention. Chechen authorities offered the story that the brothers were terrorism suspects, but their family deny this.

LGBT Network posted an update on the brothers March 17, the day of the younger man's 18th birthday.

"For more than a month, Ismail has been imprisoned in the Chechen Republic, as he is accused of aiding an illegal armed group under Part 2 of Article 208 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation," the group said. "Now he is an adult, which means that the prosecution can request a more severe punishment for him, as well as send him to a regular colony, instead of an educational one."

"The men's mother, Zara Magamadova, filmed an appeal to Russia's human rights commissioner last week seeking her sons' release and accusing the authorities of 'fabricating' the legal case against them" when Ismail turned 18, Moscow Times reported.

The LGBT Network says the men were railroaded. "The brothers were forced to sign a waiver of lawyers, as well as to sign fabricated confessions," it claimed.

Defense lawyer Alexander Nemov called the brothers' arrest "political," and authorities had "no evidence" to support their claims that the men had anything to do with terrorists.

"The treatment of Isayev and Magamadov and the harried hunt for their parents is a familiar story in Chechnya, where similar tactics track down LGBT people," noted UK news outlet Pink News.

"Chechen officials have been accused of killing LGBT people while throwing others into makeshift prisons and torturing them as part of a purge led by Kremlin-appointed strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov," Pink News added.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.