‘Surrender to Kadyrov’s mercy’ Russian asylum seeker deported from France handed over to Chechen police

Magomed GadayevAmnesty International France

Facing deportation to Russia, Chechen asylum seeker Magomed Gadayev stabbed himself in the stomach at a migrant detention facility in France on Friday, April 9. Nevertheless, the French authorities put him on plane to Moscow. When he arrived there, FSB border guards held him in an airport transit zone for 12 hours, before putting him on a flight to the far-northern town of Novy Urengoy, where his relatives live. By Sunday, reports had emerged that Magomed Gadayev had been handed over to the Chechen authorities — despite the fact that he faces reprisals in Chechnya as a witness in a torture case against local police.

On April 9, the French authorities deported Magomed Gadayev — an asylum seeker who fled Chechnya in 2010, claiming that he had been kidnapped and held in an unofficial prison in a Chechen special police base for five months. Gadayev even proved in French court that he was tortured in official custody in Chechnya, writes the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

However, as the newspaper explains, in October 2020 Gadayev was arrested against the backdrop of French police “paying special attentionto people from the Caucasus after the murder of teacher Samuel Paty,” and sent to a detention facility for migrants. His expulsion was initially suspended after Gadayev contracted COVID-19.

After taking up Gadayev’s case in France, lawyer Arnaud Toulouse tried to prove that returning his client to Russia would put him in mortal danger. The French authorities also considered deporting Gadayev to Poland, where he lived before moving to France. However, it turned out that his refugee status in Poland had been cancelled.

As a result, the court ruled that if by the end of April the Polish migration authorities hadn’t provided Gadayev with guarantees of protection in Poland and non-refoulement to Russia, then a new hearing would be held on the issue of granting him political asylum in France.

However, on April 8, Gadayev was detained upon reporting to the French police and they decided to deport him. According to Gadayev’s wife, the court ruling banning his expulsion was still in force, but the French police referred to an order from the head of the Interior Ministry. A trial on granting Gadayev refugee status in France was supposed to take place in late April, his wife said, without specifying her husband’s legal status in the country.

On April 9, Gadayev was put on flight from Paris to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. In custody in a migrant detention facility before the flight, Gadayev stabbed himself in the stomach to protest his deportation, writes Mediazona. 

At the Moscow airport, Gadayev was transferred to a flight to Novy Urengoy, a town in Russia’s far-northern Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, where his brother lives. Officers from the FSB border service held Gadayev in the aiport’s transit zone for more than 12 hours, reported to Igor Kalyapin, the head of the Committee Against Torture. 

In a complaint to the prosecutor’s office, human rights defenders alleged that the law enforcement officers at the airport claimed to have an “agreement” with Chechen police on handing Gadayev over to the republican authorities upon his return to Russia. There is no warrant for Gadayev’s arrest in Russia, nor are there any preventive measures against him, Mediazona writes.

Gadayev is, however, a witness in a criminal case against Chechen police officers accused of torture and abuse of power. The case was launched over the disappearance of Grozny resident Islam Umarpashayev, who was kidnapped by Chechen riot policemen in December 2009. Umarpashayev was kept in an unofficial prison in a special police base in Chechnya until April 2010. Gadayev was also in custody there at the time, on suspicion of having connections with militants.

On the morning of April 10, two Chechens visited the home of Gadayev’s relatives in Novy Urengoy (nothing is known about their possible connections to law enforcement agencies). After their visit, Gadayev’s family members asked him to return to Chechnya voluntarily and “surrender to the mercy” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Novaya Gazeta reports.

Both Gadayev and his Russian lawyer Semyon Tsvetkov, who were staying with Gadayev’s relatives in Novy Urengoy, noticed that the entrance to the home was under surveillance. They appealed to local law enforcement officers with a request to take them to the police station and provide them with state protection. Gadayev and his lawyer were taken away in separate cars. On Sunday, April 11, reports emerged that the police in Novy Urengoy had handed Mogamed Gadayev over police officers who had come for him from Chechnya. 


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