Russian court grants parole to Oyub Titiyev, Chechen Human rights activist accused of possessing marijuana-like substance

Moscow: Chechen rights activist Oyub Titiyev walked free on Friday after being granted parole from a sentence for drugs possession that prompted international condemnation. Titiyev, the 61-year-old head of the Chechen branch of the Russian rights group, Memorial, was arrested in January last year, accused of possessing a marijuana-like substance. Memorial is one of a few rights groups to continue operations in Chechnya, a region under the tight control of strongman Ramzan Kadyrov where activists have been beaten up and killed.

 Russian court grants parole to Oyub Titiyev, Chechen Human rights activist accused of possessing marijuana-like substance

Oyub Titiev, the head of a Chechnya branch of the prominent human rights group Memorial, stands behind bars. AP

In March, Titiyev was sentenced to four years in a penal colony but was granted parole this month. Emerging from prison in the Chechen town of Argun, Titiyev said he "had never ceased his work on human rights," said Oleg Orlov, a Memorial representative who was among those welcoming him. "We're all happy that our colleague is finally free," said Orlov, while adding Tityev will probably not be able to continue working in Chechnya as before.

"I think it's hardly possible he could work here," Orlov said while adding that Titiyev will "definitely continue at Memorial" and the group will continue work in Chechnya "in a different way."
Titiyev has gone to stay with his brother, Orlov and his lawyer Marina Dubrovina said."He missed his loved ones a lot and wants to go home," said Dubrovina. The group highlights human rights violations and has specifically accused Kadyrov of heading a totalitarian regime that uses kidnapping and torture.

Chechen leader Kadyrov wrote on Instagram that he "welcomed" the decision to free Titiyev. Titiyev's release comes a week after Russia dropped drug charges against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov after a huge public outcry, with authorities acknowledging police evidence did not stand up. Kremlin critics say drug charges are routinely used to silence rights workers and activists.
While Titiyev and Golunov's cases are a cause for celebration, they do not signal any wider change, cautioned lawyer Dubrovina.

"The release of two people can't be called a trend, because a huge number of people who have had drugs planted on them are in jail," she said. "It's very good that they freed Titiyev but it would be good if the practice of planting drugs ended."Titiyev and his supporters have linked his case to his investigations into the secretive prison system of a region notorious for rights abuses.

"He has always said it is linked to his activity as head of Grozny Memorial. It's persecution for his activities," said Dubrovina.

Updated Date: Jun 21, 2019 17:44:06 IST