Russia: Authorities must release human rights activist held on 'preposterous' accusations

Responding to the news that the Russian authorities have refused to grant bail to Oyub Titiev, head of human rights group Memorial’s office in the city of Grozny, following a hearing in the Supreme Court of Chechnya today, Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, said:

“We are deeply dismayed by the court’s refusal to release our friend and colleague, Oyub Titiev. The accusations against him are completely preposterous and based on what we believe to be fabricated evidence.

“We demand his immediate and unconditional release. He is a prisoner of conscience, and a prisoner in the hands of authorities that hold people in secret prisons, torture them and torment their families.

“The Russian authorities must put an end to the coordinated assault they have carried out against Memorial and other human rights organizations across the country, and the circumstances surrounding this saga of injustice must be investigated.”

Background

Oyub Titiev, the head of Memorial’s office in Grozny in Chechnya, was arrested by police on 9 January. The police claimed that they found drugs in his car, but the search was conducted with such significant procedural violations that police had to re-enact it, hours later and in the presence of “witnesses”.

On 17 January, Memorial’s office in Nazran, in neighbouring Ingushetia was set on fire during the night by two masked men captured on CCTV footage.

On the night of 23 January, the car used by members of Memorial in Makhachkala in Dagestan, another region neighbouring Chechnya, was burnt. 

On the morning of the same day, anonymous threats were delivered via text messages to the mobile used by Memorial’s office staff in Makhachkala. The message warned: “You are walking on a cliff’s edge. Close down! Next time we will burn the office with you inside. The car [is] a warning”. An anonymous caller then phoned the number with a similar message before hanging up.

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