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Novaya Gazeta: Chechnya has at least six secret prisons for gays

There are six known secret prisons for homosexuals in the Chechen Republic, reported Novaya Gazeta on Monday. Earlier, the publication specified that one of these prisons was situated in town of Argun; Radio Liberty then learned about the second such institution was located in the village of Tsotsi-Yurt. Novaya Gazeta did not report on the locations of the four remaining prisons.

“We have handed over to Russia’s Investigative Committee the personal data of 26 residents of Chechnya who have been illegally detained and, according to our information, fallen victim to [cruel] extrajudicial punishment,” read Novaya Gazeta’s article. “This list includes people killed only on the basis of suspicion of homosexuality.”

Chechen authorities, noted Novaya Gazeta, categorically deny both the claim that homosexuals are being persecuted in the republic and the very fact of their existence. Authorities have not, however, denied the existence of secret prisons. Chechnya’s Human Rights Council member Heda Saratova has said that the prisons in question do not hold homosexuals, but individuals detained on suspicion of terrorism.

Novaya Gazeta also noted that Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov mentioned the name Khas Tepsurkayev in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the same meeting in which Kadyrov called Novaya Gazeta’s articles on the persecution of homosexuals in the republic “provocative”. According to Novaya Gazeta’s sources, Tepsurkayev is amongst the Chechens detained on suspicion of homosexuality. Tepsurkaev’s name was not made public, the newspaper noted, and the fact that Kadyrov was the first to name the detainee’s name and surname “proves that the head of Chechnya is highly aware of [the details of] this situation.”

On April 1, Novaya Gazeta reported that, in February and March 2017, more than 100 people were detained on suspicion of homosexuality in Chechnya. According to the publication, detainees were kept in secret prisons, tortured, and forced to denounce other homosexuals; three people were killed. Citing their own sources, Radio Liberty, Meduza, and The Guardian also reported on the persecution of gays in Chechnya. Chechen authorities accused Novaya Gazeta of libel and claimed that there are no homosexuals in the republic.

On April 14, 2017, Novaya Gazeta urged the Russian government to respond to calls for “religious fanatics to massacre journalists” allegedly voiced by Islamic theologians at a meeting convened in the central mosque of Grozny, Chechnya on April 3. The meeting, according to the publication Grozny-Inform, was attended by 15,000 people. According the Novaya Gazeta’s editorial team, the meeting participants adopted a resolution in which they declared that the journalists had “insulted the centuries-old foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men,” as well as their faith. The participants also allegedly promised that their offenders would be “subjected to retribution, wherever and whoever they are, without statute of limitations.”

At an April 19 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov described Novaya Gazeta’s articles as “provocative” and insisted that claims of the detention of homosexuals in Chechnya were untrue. Kadyrov did not specify which articles he was referring to. In the same meeting, Kadyrov mentioned “unconfirmed facts”, the name Khas Tepsurkayev, and pronounced the words: “They said that he was killed, but he is at home.”

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