Oyub Titiyev, the head of Russian rights group Memorial in Chechnya who was arrested in January on drug charges, is to remain in pre-trial detention. On Wednesday, Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky District Court extended his detention until 9 June, Kavkaz.Realii reported.
The defence argued during the hearing that Titiyev would not hide from the investigation, but his appeal was rejected by the judge. An appeal to release him at least to house arrest was also turned down.
Caucasian Knot reported that according to Titiyev’s lawyers, Chechen law enforcement created legal obstacles in order to deprive Titiyev of a defence. One of Titiyev’s lawyers, Ilya Novikov, accused the Chechen authorities of fabricating the case.
Tityev was arrested on 9 January on drugs charges. On 9 February, Memorial reported that Titiyev’s house was to be demolished along with thirty-six other houses to ‘make room for a shopping centre’. According to Memorial, 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. Caucasian Knot has confirmed that Titiyev’s house was indeed demolished.
‘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 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’.
In the weeks after Titiyev’s arrest, Memorial has been subject to a number of attacks: its office in Ingushetia were burned down; its staff members in Daghestan received threatening letters and phone calls, and the Daghestan office’s driver’s car was set alight.
Titiyev’s lawyer and friends have also been subjected to harassment in Chechnya. The group’s office in Grozny was also searched and drugs were supposedly found on their balcony. Many of Titiyev’s close colleagues and family have reportedly had to flee the country.
[Ream more from Open Democracy Russia: No defence in Chechnya: Oyub Titiyev and the grim future of human rights in Russia’s North Caucasus]
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.