Brothers Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev have announced through a local LGBTQ+ rights group Wednesday that they are beginning a hunger strike after a judge denied their request to move their case to another region.
They had fled the semi-autonomous Russian region in 2020 but were forcibly returned to Chechnya on terrorism-related charges. The young men face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Local activists said the charges are fabricated.
The Russian LGBT Network released a statement through its crisis group North Caucasus SOS program that declared the start of the hunger strike.
“Magamadov and Isaev have been in the Detention Center No. 1 in Grozny, Chechen Republic [for] more than 10 months. They have reported being tortured during this time but the Investigation Committee refused to investigate the fact of torturing and to initiate a criminal case,” the group said in the release. “Magamadov and Isaev have said pressure has been applied to them and that they were forced to refuse from legal support.”
NC SOS also said the two have been threatened with honor killings by distant relatives on Chechen television.
The group listed the reasons the case should be moved including that Chechen officials have already expressed belief in the brothers’ guilt, their lawyers have been denied access to them, and the circumstances around their forced return.
Police in Chechnya detained 20 of their relatives for two hours in March in an attempt to locate the men’s parents, who had fled the area. Their mother had filmed a request to Russia’s human rights commissioner seeking her sons’ release and accusing authorities of faking the charges.
Chechnya’s government has been accused of violence and lethal treatment of LGBTQ+ citizens in the region. While countries around the world have condemned the anti-LGBTQ+ Chechen government, Russia has denied a crackdown ever occurred.
Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly claimed that Chechnya is home only to straight people.