MOSCOW -- The Moscow-based human rights center Memorial has recognized two Chechen brothers held in Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya as political prisoners.
Memorial said on September 14 that Ismail Isayev and Salekh Magamadov have been persecuted for their criticism of the authorities in Chechnya and for being homosexual.
The brothers have been held in a detention center in the Chechen capital, Grozny, since February on a charge of supporting illegal armed groups by providing them with food.
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"The case against Isayev and Magamadov is marred with blatant violations -- they were not allowed to see their lawyers, legal deadlines in the case have been ignored, pressure has been imposed on the brothers and their relatives, and the two were tortured," the statement says, adding that the case against Isayev and Magamadov is politically motivated and unlawful.
Isayev and Magamadov were initially detained last year over their opposition Telegram channel, through which they criticized Chechen authorities.
After their arrest, a video showing them apologizing for their criticism of the authorities appeared on the Internet. In the video, the young men appeared to have been beaten, according to Memorial.
In July 2020, the Russian LGBT Network helped the two men move to the city of Nizhny Novgorod, from which they planned to leave Russia for an unspecified foreign country.
However, they were abducted and brought to Chechnya in February, where they were charged with supporting terrorists.
Isayev and Magamadov have complained that they were beaten and tortured while in custody.
Chechen authorities have said the two men lied about their sexual orientation to make it easier for them to get asylum abroad, which they and human rights organizations reject.
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.
Kremlin critics say Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned a blind eye to the alleged abuses and violations of the country's constitution by Kadyrov because he relies on the former rebel commander to control separatist sentiment and violence in Chechnya, the site of two devastating post-Soviet wars and an Islamist insurgency that spread to other mostly Muslim regions in the North Caucasus.