Chechnya gay rights activists arrested on way to deliver petition in Moscow

Police say the activists' actions amount to an unsanctioned protest

Charlotte England
Thursday 11 May 2017 23:40 BST
Activists carried empty boxes through central Moscow
Activists carried empty boxes through central Moscow (AFP/Getty Images)

Russian police have detained five activists who tried to deliver a petition to prosecutors in Moscow against the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya.

Hundreds of thousands had signed the petition calling for an official investigation into the alleged torture and killing of gay men in the Russian territory.

Police said they arrested the men because their actions amounted to an unsanctioned protest.

Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported last month that authorities in the majority Muslim republic of Chechnya had rounded up over 100 men suspected of being gay and tortured them.

At least three of the men had been killed, the newspaper reported.

Chechen officials denied the report - and claimed gay people did not even exist in the republic.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in April that the Kremlin was following the treatment of gay people in Chechnya, in the North Caucasus, closely but that reports about gay men being tortured there could not be regarded as reliable.

Police detained the activists - four Russians and one Italian national - on Thursday as they walked along Moscow's Tverskaya Street holding mostly empty boxes with the words “Justice for the Chechen 100” written on them.

The activists also carried a USB stick with signatures in support of the petition.

Police said the activists' actions amounted to an unsanctioned protest. Officers put them in a police van and drove away.

The petition was signed “by more than two million people around the world, more than the entire population of the Chechen republic”, the Russian LGBT Network told the BBC.

It said they were demanding “an unbiased investigation of illegal detentions of hundreds of people in Chechnya because of their homosexuality”.

When asked about the alleged treatment of gay people in Chechnya, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric cited calls by UN special rapporteurs for the release of men detained in the republic for the perception they may be gay and for Russian authorities to condemn all homophobic statements.

“It's clear from the Secretary-General's point of view that no one should be persecuted for perceived reasons of sexual orientation or who they may love,” Mr Dujarric told reporters.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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