This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of two Chechen siblings who face possible 8 1/2-year prison sentences for what the rights group describes as false accusations of “aiding illegal armed groups.”
It says a verdict is expected in the Achkhoy-Martan district court of the southern Russian republic on February 22 in the case against siblings Salekh Magamadov, 21, and Ismail Isayev, 19.
One of the two is gay and the other is gender-transitioning, Amnesty says.
“Salekh Magamadov and Ismail [Isayev] must be immediately and unconditionally released. They should never have been charged in the first place,” a statement quotes Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia director, as saying.
“Belonging to the LGBTI community in Chechnya — or anywhere else for that matter — is not a crime,” Struthers said. “Their ordeal must end now.”
The two have been in a Grozny detention center since February 2021.
In September, the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center, which was recently ordered by Russian authorities to shut its doors, recognized the siblings as political prisoners and said their case was “marred with blatant violations.”
In July 2020, the Russian LGBT Network helped Magamadov and Isayev move to the city of Nizhny Novgorod, from which they planned to leave Russia for an unspecified foreign country.
But they were abducted from a flat provided by a local NGO and taken to Chechnya a year ago.
The volatile region’s government and its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007, are frequently accused by Russian and international activists of overseeing grave human rights abuses that include abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings.
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