World champion mixed martial arts fighter Murad Amriev escaped from the Russian Republic of Chechnya to Ukraine in 2013. In his homeland he had been tortured and a criminal case was opened against him, although it appeared to have been closed soon after. In June 2017, while trying to cross the Ukrainian-Russian border Amriev was detained. It turned out that the case against him had been reopened and he was wanted in Russia. On June 8, 2017 he was deported to Russia and on June 9, handed over to the Chechen Security Services. Human rights defenders fear for his health and his life.
Here's what you need to know about the story of Murad Amriev.
Why Did Murad Amriev Flee Chechnya?
In September 2013, Amriev appealed to the Committee Against Torture. He claimed that on a night in August of that year three strangers pushed him into a car and took him to the offices of the Interior Ministry. There they tortured him, beat him, suspended him from the ceiling and tortured him with electric shocks.
Murad Amriev after being tortured in 2014. Photo Credit: svoboda.org
Among his torturers was Mahomed Dashaev, the Chief of Police of Chechnya's capital, Grozny. According to Amriev, Dashaev also organized his detention in 2010. An officier from the Interior Ministry suspected Amriev's older brother, Zurab, of making an attempt on his life. Due to these accusations Zurab had earlier fled from persecution to Germany.
In an interview with independent Russian channel TV Rain, Zurab claimed that the main objective in persecuting his younger brother was to get him to return to Chechnya himself.
Murad Amriev was also forced to flee Russia.
What Are the Chechen Authorities Accusing Him Of?
The Chechen authorities have twice opened cases against Murad Amriev for "using forged documents." His passport misstates his date of birth–1986 instead of 1985.
According to the head of the Committee Against Torture, Igor Kalyapina, the case "isn't worth a damn." Amriev used this passport peacefully for 13 years and this mistake was just a formal excuse to persecute him.
The first case against him was closed in 2014. The fact that on February 1, 2017 Amriev once again found himself on the Russian Federation's wanted list came as a surprise when they detained him at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border.
How Did They Detain Amriev?
Murad Amriev left Ukraine for Moscow on June 4, 2017 in order to extend his visa. At the border they took him off the train and detained him. Amriev was taken to the Bryansk Detention Centre and then to the prosecutors office. The Chechen police were waiting for them there. Among them, Amriev recognized a man who tortured him in 2013. The article under which Amriev was detained did not have provisions for imprisonment, but he couldn't leave the prosecutor's office because Chechen operatives and special forces had him surrounded.
According to Anastasiya Garina, an employee for the Committee for Torture Prevention, the Bryansk Security Services had a discussion over whether or not to hand Amriev over to the Chechen authorities. At some point, Amriev managed to escape from the building of the Bryansk Prosecutor's Office.
After coming to Ukraine, Amriev became a world champion in mixed martial arts. Photo: kavkaz-uzel.eu
"The prosecutor's office was a terrible mess. Murad just used this to leave the building. He waited until the Chechen operatives left to meet with the investigator and he just went out the front door," Garina wrote.
On June 7, 2017 they detained Amreiv at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. The next thing he knew he was at the Regional Police Office in the Belarusian city of Dobrush. From there he was sent to Chechnya.
Amriev asked for political asylum in Belarus.
"They aren't giving me the right to a lawyer...They aren't giving me anything to do. Nobody is allowed to see me. I want to get political asylum here. They aren't giving me the opportunity," he shouted from the window of the detention centre in response to questions from TV Rain.
Reactions to Amriev's Detention
Amriev's parents released a video message, in which they asked to prevent their son's transfer to Chechnya because he faces mortal danger there.
"Please help prevent his transfer. He isn't guilty of anything, he didn't break the law, they just want to settle a presonal score with him," his parents said in the message. It was later revealed that the family left Chechnya for safety reasons.
According to the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the Council on Human Rights under Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and the leadership of the Russian Interior Ministry had been notified about Amriev's situation.
Photo сredit: Facebook Page of Murad Amriev
Freedom House also spoke out against transfering Amriev to Chechnya.
The European Court of Humans Rights (ECHR) has given Amriev's case priority. This means that the court will be paying special attention to how events will unfold.
In another letter from the ECHR and the Committee Against Torture, the Court addressed a number of questions to the Russian Authorities. In particular, they asked whether there was a request from the Russian Federation to extradite Amriev from Belarus and how the authorities could guarantee Amriev his chosen lawyers and prevent further torture.
The ECHR has asked the Russian Federation to answer these question before July 5, 2017.
/Translated by Eilish Hart