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A Russian court has temporarily halted the deportation of Khudoberdi Nurmatov — a 30-year-old openly gay journalist who helped uncover Chechnya’s violent, ongoing anti-gay purge. Russian courts had originally sought to deport Nurmatov back to his homophobic birth country of Uzbekistan where he faced possible imprisonment, torture and even death for being gay.
The European Court of Human Rights ordered an emergency stay of Nurmatov’s deportation last Friday. The Russian court now says that it will not deport him until the European Court looks over his case. Nurmatov, who writes under the pen name Ali Feruz, will likely stay in a migrant detention center for the next 12 to 18 months until the courts reach a decision.
Nurmatov began living in Russia in 2011 after fleeing persecution in Uzbekistan. A year after living in Russia, he lost his passport and has lived as an undocumented citizen in the country ever since.
Russian authorities arrested Nurmatov near his workplace on Aug. 1 2017 after asking to see his documents. Nurmatov’s lawyers claim that his arresting and detaining officers beat and tasered him while taking him into custody.
If the courts decide that he cannot be deported to Uzbekistan — a country that punishes male same-sex encounters with up to three years in prison — his lawyers hope that Russia will release him and another European country will grant him asylum. Either way, it looks as if Russia won’t let him stay in the country.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the case “very complicated” and said that “migration violations by Nurmatov couldn’t be ignored.”
In 2008, Uzbekistan authorities detained and tortured Nurmatov in an attempt to collect information on his friends’ political views and to recruit him for intelligence gathering. He refused and in retaliation, the legal authorities beat him and “threatened to rape his wife and imprison him on false information.”
He subsequently came out as gay and divorced his wife in 2013. He made a name for himself at Novaya Gazeta, the investigative newspaper that first reported Chechnya’s ongoing campaign of kidnapping, torturing and murdering gay and bi men, by writing about LGBT rights, hate crimes and disability rights
After his recent arrest by Russian authorities, Nurmatov allegedly attempted to slice his wrists with a pen, preferring death of deportation back to Uzbekistan.