What those who have been kidnapped and incarcerated in Tsentoroi’s private jails have had to endure was described in horrifying detail by Sunday Times correspondent Mark Franchetti in an article published in the newspaper’s April 30 edition. Franchetti detailed the case of Akhmed Isaev, a middle-aged engineer who said he was abducted in late 2004 by kadyrovtsy who wanted to force his son Said, a former rebel fighter who had fled abroad after being captured and forced to work for Kadyrov, to return to Chechnya. The elder Isaev was “held hostage for 311 days and released only when it became clear the blackmail had failed,” Franchetti wrote.
Isaev said that his abductors took him to “a gym converted into a makeshift torture chamber” at a kadyrovtsy base in Tsentoroi, where he was severely beaten—his nose was broken and teeth knocked out—and subjected to electric shocks. “A few hours later, as Isaev lay in anguish handcuffed to a radiator, [Ramzan] Kadyrov…appeared surrounded by armed bodyguards,” Franchetti wrote. “Ginger-haired, bearded and stocky, he glanced at his men’s latest quarries and approached one of the prisoners hanging by his wrists. ‘He shouted abuse at the man and punched him,’ Isaev said. ‘Then he had the cables attached to his toes and personally gave him several shocks.’” According to Franchetti, Ismail Mutaev, a suspected rebel currently on trial in Chechnya, has claimed that multiple burn marks on his body were inflicted by Kadyrov personally.
Franchetti quoted an unnamed “Memorial investigator” as saying: “Considering the evidence we have gathered, we have no doubt that most of the crimes which are being committed now in Chechnya are the work of Kadyrov’s men. There is also no doubt in our minds that Kadyrov has personally taken part in beating and torturing people. What they are doing is pure lawlessness. To make matters worse they also go after people who are innocent, whose names were given by someone being tortured.”
Franchetti quoted Akmed Isaev as saying that during his imprisonment there was a constant flow of new hostages. “It used to be Chechens against Russians,” Isaev said. “Now it’s Chechens against Chechens. The Kremlin has handed the dirty work as well as the whole of Chechnya to Kadyrov and his thugs. But it won’t end like this. For every single guy they tortured or killed, one day there will be a bloody vendetta.”
In an indication of the problems that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture delegation would later face in attempting to enter Tsentoroi, Franchetti wrote that fields around Tsentoroi “are mined and all access routes are blocked by checkpoints where visitors, including the bodyguards of Chechen president Alu Alkhanov, are made to hand in their weapons.”
Meanwhile, the Nazran-based Council of Non-Governmental Organizations reported on May 1 that more than 20 people had been abducted from Tsentoroi over the previous several days by “armed men in camouflage and members of unidentified power-wielding bodies.” According to the group, the perpetrators gave no reason for the abductions and nothing is known of the location and fate of those seized. In addition, two people were abducted in the Shatoi district village of Benoi on April 28 by members of “local power-wielding bodies, while the body of a resident of the Shali district village of Novye Atagi who had been kidnapped by a group of armed men was subsequently found near the village.