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Turkey-Based Chechen Opposition Activist Says Relatives Being Pressured By Russian Authorities

Khasan Khalitov lives in self-imposed exile in Turkey.
Khasan Khalitov lives in self-imposed exile in Turkey.

An outspoken critic of Ramzan Kadyrov, the authoritarian leader of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, says his relatives are being pressured in Russia because of his activities.

Khasan Khalitov, who lives in self-imposed exile in Turkey, told RFE/RL on September 7 that police in Chechnya had detained his 75-year-old father, Gani Khalitov, and his 46-year-old brother Ramzan Khalitov, taking them from their home a day earlier without explanation.

Khasan Khalitov added that police in Moscow had apprehended his twin brother Khusein and transferred him to Chechnya.

Khalitov said that he was not officially informed of the moves, instead learning of them from residents of his village in Chechnya and anonymous bloggers.

Khalitov added that the move to pressure his relatives is most likely a response from Kadyrov and his government to the severe beating of a Kadyrov supporter in Istanbul on September 5.

Russian officials have not commented publicly on the situation.

Another self-exiled Chechen man, Ilman Mamakayev, who resides in an EU member state, told RFE/RL that police in Chechnya had detained several of his relatives last week, adding that his 73-year-old father was released over the weekend with his moustache shaved off, which is considered an act of humiliation in the region.

Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007, is frequently accused by Russian and international watchdogs 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.