A former top official in Chechnya's separatist government, Akhmed Zakayev, who resides in London, says his relatives have been detained in Chechnya after a video statement he posted online condemning the humiliation of a teenage activist.
Zakayev told RFE/RL on September 10 that his two brothers and two sisters, as well as their children residing in Chechnya, had been detained and taken away by men belonging to unknown organizations.
Zakayev linked the detainments with his September 8 online video statement condemning the torture and humiliation of a 19-year-old Chechen activist, who criticized Chechen police and the region's authoritarian leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, on the opposition 1ADAT Telegram channel.
Zakayev in the statement called himself a moderator of the 1ADAT Telegram channel and condemned Chechen authorities for recording the teenager’s humiliation and placing the video on the Internet, calling the ordeal “a gross shame.”
On September 9, Chechen parliament speaker Magomed Daudov publicly said that Zakayev will be "held responsible" for his involvement in the activities of the 1ADAT Telegram channel.
Zakayev, 61, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister for the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.
He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.
A former Chechen militant who fought against Russian forces in the first Chechen war, Kadyrov has been accused by Russian and international rights activists of numerous human rights violations, including torture, kidnapping, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and the assassination of personal and political enemies both in Russia and abroad.
Kremlin critics say 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.