Chechen authorities have detained a local human rights activist on drug charges. Activists and government critics say the charges have been fabricated in order to silence him.
Sixty-year-old Oyub Titiyev, the head of the local branch of Moscow-based rights group Memorial, was arrested on 9 January. According to Russian news site Meduza, the Chechen Interior Ministry claim to have found a wrapped package of cannabis, approximately 180 grammes, in his car.
According to Novaya Gazeta, Titiyev is pleading innocent and insists the drugs do not belong to him.
Memorial’s head Aleksandr Cherkasov has accused the authorities of fabricating the case in an attempt to silence Titiyev, for his critical reporting of human rights violations in the region.
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Titiyev remains in a police station in Kurchaloy District, and faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Chechen authorities under former warlord Ramzan Kadyrov have faced accusations of serious and widespread rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings and the use of torture.
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Meduza quoted Cherkasov as saying the practice of imprisoning human rights defenders on trumped-up charges has been used actively in Chechnya.
Zhalavdi Geriyev, a reporter for news site Caucasian Knot who reported on rights abuses in the Caucasus was arrested in September 2016 on drug possession charges. Geriyev claims drugs were planted on him by police.
In October 2016, Memorial recognised Geriyev as a political prisoner.
Prominent Chechen public figure Ruslan Kutayev was arrested in 2014 after having held a round table on the anniversary of the deportation of the Chechen and Ingush people. Public debate on the issue has been suppressed for several years. Kutayev, who is a former Deputy Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria, the Chechen government in exile, was also charged with drug possession.
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