‘This fear doesn’t leave me’ Mother of detained Chechen opposition activists appeals to Russia’s human rights commissioner
In February, Russian police officers detained Chechen opposition activists Ismail Isayev and Salekh Magamadov in Nizhny Novgorod and subsequently handed them over to the Chechen authorities. The two young men, who are also brothers, had fled Chechnya in July 2020 with the help of an LGBTQ+ rights group. After being returned to Chechnya, they were both jailed on what lawyers insist are fabricated charges of aiding and abetting terrorism. Now, their mother has appealed to Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Tatyana Moskalkova, to help free her sons.
On Wednesday, March 17, the mother of Chechen opposition activists Ismail Isayev and Salekh Magamadov sent a video message to Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova.
“Today, Ismail turns 18 years old and he’s coming across the age of majority in a pre-trial detention center,” Zara Magamadova says in her appeal, which was also shared with Meduza’s editors. “For more than a month already I’ve been in constant fear for them, I fear for their heath, and this fear doesn’t leave me.”
Magamadova then goes on to ask Moskalkova to help her get her sons back, underscoring that the case against them is fabricated. She also appeals “to everyone who can help” for assistance.
Zara Magamadova’s sons, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev, are the moderators of an opposition Telegram channel called Osal Nakh 95. In April 2020, they were arrested in Chechnya and accused of making “offensive publications.” (One of them later made a public apology). The two brothers left Chechnya for Nizhny Novgorod in July 2020 with the help of the human rights organization Russian LGBT Network.
In February 2021, however, police officers in Nizhny Novgorod detained Magamadov and Isayev and proceeded to send them to the Chechen town of Gudermes. There, they were interrogated as witnesses in a criminal case and then released. Later, Magamadov and Isayev were arrested once again — this time on suspicion of involvement in an illegal armed group. The Chechen authorities claimed that Magamadov and Isayev confessed to the criminal charges in the presence of their father. According to local law enforcement officials, the two brothers passed food to militant Rustam Borchashvili, who was shot dead during a special operation in Chechnya in the fall of 2020.
However, according to Magamadov and Isayev, as reported by the Russian LGBT Network, after being detained they were forced under threat of torture to sign fabricated confessions and refuse legal representation. They were forced to memorize the made-up testimonies ahead of their hearings and the court remanded them in custody. What’s more, Magamadov told the Russian LGBT Network that he was subjected to violence and death threats while in police custody.
“The police officer took me into another office, grabbing me by the chest, he slammed me against the wall twice. I was forced [to tell him] that I would sign an agreement with a state-appointed lawyer. Then the police officer explained to me: ‘If you try to resist us, then I’m ready to kill you, even in the courtroom. If I don’t kill you, I’m not a man’.”
Lawyers maintain that the persecution of Ismail Isayev and Salekh Magamadov is politically motivated. They’ve announced plans to seek not only a review of the criminal charges, but also the prosecution of the Chechen law enforcement officers involved in the case.
Translation by Eilish Hart