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The house of Russian rights group Memorial’s Chechen head, Oyub Titiyev, is to be demolished along with thirty-six other houses to ‘make room for a shopping centre’, according to Memorial. Titiyev was arrested on 9 January on drugs charges.
Memorial reported on 9 February that despite the public having long known of plans to construct the shopping centre in Kurchaloy District, in eastern Chechnya, locals were informed only on 5 February that their houses were to be demolished.
According to them, families were promised alternative housing ‘in the future’, but no further details were given and no agreements were signed. People were reportedly given only a week’s notice to find alternative accommodation.
Memorial said in a statement that when people were informed by authorities of the plan during a gathering at a local mosque, ‘nobody dared to protest’. They said people began searching for housing immediately despite that not having agreed to sell their houses.
Residents were told they should have leave their homes by 12 February. Constructions of the shopping centre is scheduled to kick off on 1 March.
‘Trumped up charges’
Sixty-year-old Titiyev was detained after the Interior Ministry claimed to have found a wrapped package of cannabis of approximately 180 grammes in his car. Titiyev denies the charges, insisting that the drugs were planted on him.
On 8 February, The European Parliament passed a resolution calling for his immediate release, labelling drug charges against him ‘trumped-up’.
A week after Titiyev’s arrest, the group’s Ingushetia office was set ablaze in an apparent arson attack.
Staff in neighbouring Daghestan have also faced death threats, and a car belonging to them was set on fire on 22 January days after it was used to transport Titiyev’s lawyer. The car was reportedly followed on this journey.
Memorial operates throughout Russia, including the North Caucasus. Recent cases the group has worked on in the region include ‘abuse’ by law enforcement during special operations, mass arrests of and persecution of individual Muslims, torture by police, and attacks on businessmen.