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Russia must free detained Mixed Martial Arts champion

Chechen torture survivor Murad Amriev is at risk of further torture if returned to Chechnya

The Russian authorities must immediately release Chechen torture survivor Murad Amriev, and under no circumstances place his life at further risk by handing him over to the Chechen authorities, Amnesty International said today.

Mr Amriev - a World Mixed Martial Arts champion from Chechnya who fled the republic in 2013 after allegedly being tortured by police officers in Grozny - was detained by Belarusian police as he tried to cross from Russia into Belarus last night. 

Amriev had tried to drive into Belarus after being threatened with arrest earlier this week by Chechen police officers who had surrounded the prosecutor’s office in the Russian city of Bryansk. Amriev was in the process of being released after being detained earlier over a mistaken birthdate in his passport. Faced with immediate re-arrest by the Chechen police, Amriev ran out of the building into a waiting relative’s car and sped towards the Belarusian border.

For the past four years Mr Amriev has been living in exile in Ukraine, but earlier this month had travelled to Russia to apply for a Schengen visa. He was arrested in Bryansk on what Amnesty believes were spurious charges relating to the birthdate in his passport, and the arrival of Chechen police in Bryansk - more than 1,100 miles from Chechnya - raises further questions about the grounds for detaining Amriev in Russia. 

After being detained at the Russian-Belarussian border on Wednesday night, Amriev was held in a police station in the city of Dobrush, in eastern Belarus, where police officers reportedly handcuffed him to a radiator, ignored his request to claim asylum and prevented him from seeing his lawyers. Then, at around 3am this morning, Belarusian police reportedly handed him back over to Russian law-enforcement agents. He is currently in custody in an unknown location in Russia, stoking fears about his fate.

Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher, said:

“The story of Murad Amriev reads like a thriller, but it is real and his life is at stake. 

“He was ‘handed over’ to the Russian authorities early this morning in what amounts to an unlawful rendition after he attempted to seek asylum in Belarus. 

“Under no circumstances should the federal authorities of Russia deliver him into the hands of Chechen law-enforcement officers, which could put him at risk of torture or death. 

“There are no legal grounds to detain Amriev for the minor crime of a mistake in his passport - a fact that he has never concealed. He is being arbitrarily detained and must be released immediately. His life could depend on it.”


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