Vilnius, Lithuania, February 27, 2020 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed alarm over the assault of Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov.
Yesterday, an unidentified person broke into Abdurakhmanov’s apartment while he was asleep and beat him with a hammer, according to news reports and a report by Vayfond, a Sweden-based Chechen human rights group. Abdurakhmanov woke up and fought the assailant, and was able to stop the attack and call police, according to the same reports and the blogger’s brother, Muhammad Abdurakhmanov, who spoke to the independent regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot).
The attack took place in “an unidentified E.U. country” according to the BBC. Reuters reported that the attack took place in Poland, but CPJ could not independently confirm the location of the attack.
Abdurakhmanov posted a video following the attack, which has been taken down from YouTube but was reposted on Kavkazsky Uzel, where he questioned the assailant, who said he had come from Moscow at the orders of “Abdurakhman from [Chechen capital] Grozny,” and added that “they have my mother.”
The blogger’s neighbor, who spoke to the BBC’s Russian service, said that Abdurakhmanov had a severe headache from a hammer blow, but did not look seriously injured. He was brought to a local hospital in an ambulance, the neighbor, who was not identified by name, told the BBC.
Abdurakhmanov is blogger whose two YouTube channels have more than 330,000 subscribers. He frequently posts criticism of Chechen authorities and of Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Russian-administered republic.
“The attack against Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov is alarming and must be thoroughly investigated,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Bringing the perpetrators of this attack to justice is crucial for ensuring the safety of Chechen dissidents living in Europe.”
Mariusz Ciarka, a Polish police spokesperson, told CPJ via email that authorities were verifying “information provided by foreign media” and could not immediately provide more details because of personal privacy laws.
Abdurakhmanov has lived in exile since fleeing Chechnya in 2015, following threats from a Chechen official linked to Kadyrov, according to news reports. After Georgia refused his asylum claim, Abdurakhmanov moved to Poland, where his request for asylum was denied in 2018, according to news reports.
Both Vayfond and the blogger’s brother called the assault an assassination attempt.
On January 30, the body of Imran Aliev, another Chechen blogger, was found in a hotel room in Lille, in northern France, with stab wounds in the throat and chest, according to reports by French daily Le Monde and news agency Agence France-Presse. CPJ was not able to determine whether Aliev’s death was tied to his reporting. Abdurakhmanov said in a video that he believed he was the real target in the attack that killed Aliev.
Chechen authorities have threatened, intimidated, and arrested journalists for their work, according to CPJ research.