Several men and women have been allegedly detained by authorities in Russia’s Chechnya on suspicion of being gay, LGBT-rights activists said on Friday.
According to NBC News, activist Igor Kochetkov told the Associated Press that there has been a spike in detentions since December 2018. Although Kochetkov didn’t determine the exact number of people who have been detained, he said that a detailed report on the ongoing purge will be released on Monday.
Similar incidents took place in April 2017 when the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta revealed that around 200 men were detained in Chechnya on suspicion of homosexuality. Activists said that detainees were tortured and some were even killed. According to the report, mass detentions took place in Grozny, Kurchaloyevsky, and Shali districts of Chechnya and none of the detainees were charged with a crime. Instead, they were detained in the basements and outbuildings of police departments.
The allegations have been denied by Chechen authorities and an investigation into the matter by federal authorities couldn’t produce any evidence to establish the claims. However, when gay men were detained last year, a former detainee named Maksim Lapunov — the first person to openly identify as a victim — testified against the persecution.
According to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe OSCE, Mr. Lapunov was detained in a “police torture cell” for 12 days where he was beaten and tortured. Per his account, other people in detention were also tortured, but his life was saved because his sister lodged a complaint against his missing status. NBC News added that Lapunov was released after he signed a document acknowledging that he was a homosexual. He was also threatened that he would be killed if he spoke to anyone about his time in detention.
Reports of a fresh anti-gay purge in Chechnya follows OSCE rapporteur's call last month for an investigation into the 1st purge - and specifically into the case of Maksim Lapunov, the first & only person to publicly identify himself as a victim. https://t.co/iuMf8erQLM pic.twitter.com/tSm68mP4y2— Carl Schreck (კარლ შრეკი) (@CarlSchreck) January 11, 2019
According to an article by Radio Free Europe, Mr. Lapunov said the following.
“Everyone accused me of being gay and said that people like me should be killed. They put a plastic bag on my head when they took me out of the cell. They wrapped my head with Scotch tape, leaving only a slot to breathe through. They beat my legs and arms.”
On social media, activists showed their outrage against the alleged detentions. While most people vehemently condemned the purge, calling the incident “horrible” and “height of human rights violation,” some came for the support of the state.
“[Gay people are] killed only if they do their ‘business’ in open..and keep disgracing [their] own families despite warnings. The [disappearances] are done by relatives and in secret. NOT by the State in the open,” one supporter said on Twitter.