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Tumso Abdurakhmanov, a popular Chechen YouTuber and an ardent critic of the Chechen government has been denied political asylum in Poland.
Abdurakhmanov told OC Media that his request was turned down ‘based on the recommendation of Poland’s Internal Security Agency — who identified me as a threat to their country’. ‘Of course, they are not explaining why exactly I am a threat’, he added.
Abdurakhmanov wrote on his Telegram channel on Thursday that the Polish authorities had ‘declined to provide any form of protection’ for him.
‘What’s more important’, he told OC Media, was that ‘appealing the decision would not safeguard me against forced expulsion to Russia. Therefore, I’m currently consulting with my lawyer’.
According to the Rule of Law Institute Foundation, a Polish legal-aid NGO assisting Abdurakhmanov, Poland’s Interior and Administration Ministry first denied him and his family asylum in December. In their latest decision, the authorities again denied him asylum, while providing his family members with ‘subsidiary protection’. Subsidiary protection is designed for citizens of a non–EU member state ‘who do not qualify as a refugee’ but are believed to face ‘a real risk of suffering serious harm’ if deported to their home country.
‘It is the first instance in Poland in which the Internal Security Agency granted ‘subsidiary protection to the children and wife but refused it to a family member who was in the very same situation’, the representative told OC Media.
A representative of the Rule of Law Institute Foundation told OC Media that the ministry’s Council for Refugees, which considered the appeal, concurred with their claim that if deported to Russia Abdurakhmanov could face persecution for his political activities. But they said the Internal Security Agency blocked the appeal. They added that the letter from the security service contained ‘classified’ information that was withheld even from Abdurakhmanov’s council.
The representative also referred to the case of Chechen political activist Azamat Bayduyev, who Poland deported to Russia in August based on similar ‘classified materials’. On 3 September, Chechnya’s Interior Ministry stated that Bayduyev had been detained ‘under suspicion of participation in an illegal armed formation’.
[Read on Open Democracy Russia: Poland vs Azamat Bayduyev: how an EU member state deported a Chechen refugee back to face the Kadyrov regime]
The Rule of Law Institute Foundation said they had exhausted all procedures within the ministry and would now take the case to court. Meanwhile, they said Abdurakhmanov would seek ‘tolerated stay’, which would guarantee his rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Poland’s Council for Refugees did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A ‘Wahhabi’ for Chechnya, a ‘threat’ to Georgian, Polish ‘national security’
Tumso Abdurakhmanov’s problems with Chechen authorities began in 2015 when according to him, bodyguards of Grozny Mayor Islam Kadyrov detained him after he accidentally cut off Kadyrov’s car while driving.
Abdurakhmanov claims that Kadyrov took issue with his beard, accusing him of being a ‘Wahhabi’ — in official nomenclature, a synonym for terrorist — opposed to his uncle, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Abdurakhmanov said he was later brought by bodyguards to the Mayor’s house, where Islam threatened to kill him. After fleeing with his family to Georgia, he was accused by the Chechen Prosecutor’s Office of fighting alongside the Islamic State in Syria. Abdurakhmanov insists he has never been to Syria.
In November 2016, Georgian authorities denied him an asylum.
In his Telegram post on Thursday, Abdurakhmanov noted that he was refused asylum on similar grounds by Georgian authorities who claimed he posed a ‘threat to national security’.
In denying his appeal against the decision, Tbilisi City Court said that due to ‘significant circumstances [granting asylum] contradicts the interests of the country’, but further details remained ‘classified’ by the government.
Abdurakhmanov then fled to Poland in 2017 and has been fighting extradition to Russia since December. He was detained by Polish authorities before entering the country and informed he was on a list of people banned from entering the Schengen Zone, described as ‘possibly armed and dangerous’ according to Abdurakhmanov.
While fighting for asylum, Abdurakhmanov has remained a vocal critic of the Chechen authorities. In August, he published a recording of a lengthy phone conversation ostensibly with Chechen Parliamentary Speaker Magomed Daudov, in which Daudov tries to persuade him to return home. Abdurakhmanov mocked Daudov’s promises for his safety, characterising the phone call later as an attempt to silence him.