Person of the Week: Head of Memorial's office in Chechnya, Oyub Titiev, remains in custody

posted 22 Jan 2018, 06:03 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 22 Jan 2018, 06:40 ]

This week Oyub Titiev, head of the Chechnya office of Memorial Human Rights Centre has remained in custody on drugs' possession charges widely believed be fabricated. On 15 January 2018, Memorial Human Rights Centre said investigators had refused to permit a doctor to visit Titiev, who was arrested on 9 January and has since been remanded in custody for two months. 
Caucasian Knot has reported that investigators did not allow a doctor to attend Oyub Titiev, who is unable to eat solid food without his dentures. Titiev had intended to visit his dentist to renew his dentures the day of his arrest. 

In a letter to President Putin and the heads of the Investigative Committee and the FSB, written on 12 January, Oyub Titiev accused police of planting the drugs he is accused of possessing in his car and voiced concern that he could be tortured in order to obtain a confession. As RFE/RL reports, in his letter Titiev wrote: "The criminal case against me is fabricated.... I have not and will not admit guilt. [...] I want to inform you that if I in any way acknowledge that I am guilty of what I am accused of, it will mean that I have been forced to admit guilt by means of physical coercion or blackmail."

Memorial's office in Grozny, Chechnya, was raided three times this week, on 16, 18 and 19 January. As reported by RFE/RL, Oleg Orlov of Memorial said that "police claimed they had found two cigarettes and an ashtray made from an empty tin can during the search on 19 January. Orlov said no such items were in the office, adding police may use them to fabricate evidence against Titiev, who was detained on what his supporters say were trumped up drug charges."

On 17 January, the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov attacked human rights groups and denied that Titiev had been falsely charged. According to RFE/RL, "Kadyrov rejected all criticism about the case in his comments, calling Titiev a 'drug addict' and branding all human rights defenders 'people without kinship, ethnicity, and religion.' Kadyrov is reported as saying: 'Isn't it amazing that the UN and the U.S. State Department raised their voices [when] one person from [Chechnya's] Kurchaloi district was detained with marijuana? Why did they keep silent when we arrested other drug addicts? [...] Why do they think that [Titiev] cannot use drugs? We catch people who are 60, 70 years old because they use drugs. Can't we detain him? Of course, we can.[...]  I am surprised when people who call themselves Chechens work with [rights groups]. I am also surprised that their relatives do not stop them. They have to know that [rights activists] will never get away with their activities in our republic'."

Tanya Lokshina of Russia Programme Director at Human Rights Watch, has said of the case: "Titiev's arrest is clearly aimed at punishing him for his human rights work and forcing Memorial to stop exposing abuses by Chechen authorities." 

In other developments in the case last week, some of Titiev's relatives have left Chechnya after coming under pressure from the police. The Presidential Council on Human Rights has urged the Investigative Committee to examine the Titiev case on the grounds that the marijuana could have been planted in Titiev's car.

'Jailed Activist Tells Putin: "If I Confess, It Means Torture Or Blackmail",' RFE/RL, 16 January 2018
'Titiev's defence reports non-admission of doctor to Oyub,' Caucasian Knot, 15 January 2018
Tanya Lokshina, 'Arson Attack on Office of Russian Rights Group,' Human Rights Watch, 17 January 2018
Grozny Police Search Memorial Office For Third Tim
e This Week, RFE/RL, 19 January 2018
'Kadyrov Insults Rights Groups, Calls Jailed Activist A 'Drug Addict,' RFE/RL, 18 January 2018