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The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for the immediate release of prominent Chechen human rights activist Oyub Titiyev, Rikard Jozwiak, Brussels reporter for RFE/RL, reported. The 8 February resolution labels drug charges levelled against Titiyev ‘trumped-up’.
Sixty-year-old Titiyev, the director of Russian rights group Memorial’s Chechen office, was arrested on 9 January. The Chechen Interior Ministry claimed they found a wrapped package of cannabis of approximately 180 grammes in his car.
Titiyev has pleaded innocent, insisting that the drugs do not belong to him. A number of activists and government critics have accused the authorities of fabricating the charges in order to silence him.
According to Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based rights group, Titiyev has received numerous threats linked to his human rights work in recent years.
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 a threats, and a car belonging to them was set on fire on 22 January, which was followed by threatening calls and text messages to staff the following day.
Despite facing threats and persecution, ‘everyone at Memorial and friends of Oyub absolutely do not intend on resigning themselves to the fact that it is impossible to work in Chechnya’, Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, former board member at Memorial, told OC Media in January.
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.