France has deported a Chechen refugee who fled torture in his native region back to Russia, where rights advocates say he faces possible torture or death, the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported over the weekend.
Magomed Gadayev, 37, is among dozens of ethnic Chechens whom France wants to expel for suspected extremism following the gruesome beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty by another Chechen national last fall.
French police put Gadayev on a Friday flight to Moscow despite a court ruling that overturned his previous deportation order, according to Novaya Gazeta.
The publication said that France has not provided a reason for deporting Gadayev or said whether he is a suspect in a criminal case. “There’s only an unofficial claim: possible involvement in pimping,” it said.
Gadayev, a senior member of two Chechen diaspora organizations in France that condemned the beheading, was said to have cut open his own stomach at a deportation facility to protest his expulsion.
In Russia, Novaya Gazeta reported that Gadayev sought state protection out of fear for his life as a witness in a rare criminal case into Chechen police torture.
Gadayev fled Russia in 2010 after Chechen riot police kidnapped and tortured him for five months, with Novaya Gazeta reporting that “they waited until the detainees grew beards to take them to the mountains and shoot them [with the justification that they were] militants.”
Citing Gadayev's lawyer, Novaya Gazeta reported Sunday that police in the northern Russian town of Novy Urengoy handed Gadayev to visiting police officers from the republic of Chechnya.
Novaya Gazeta reported that Chechen refugees are regularly deported from France to Russia, where they face dubious extremism charges or — in the case of recent deportees Ilyas Sadulayev and Lezi Artsuyev — vanish without a trace.
Amnesty International called on French President Emmanuel Macron to repatriate Gadayev back to France “immediately,” warning that his life is in danger as long as he remains in Russia.
Gadayev’s deportation prompted Novaya Gazeta’s Yelena Milashina, who reports on human rights issues in Chechnya, to turn down the 2017 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
Chechens came to France as political refugees in the early 2000s, fleeing from two successive wars between Islamic separatists and Russian troops in the North Caucasus republic.
Recent years saw another wave of emigration from the region due to opposition to Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's pro-Kremlin leader who is accused by activists of sanctioning torture, extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses.
Around 67,000 Chechens currently live in France, mostly in Paris and the country's south, making it the largest community among the Chechen diaspora in Europe.