Chechen human rights defender Oyub Titiev is a political prisoner, Memorial says


We demand his immediate release and the prosecution of those persons complicit in the fabrication of the criminal case against him.

Human rights defender Oyub Titiev, head of the Grozny office of Memorial Human Rights Centre, has been charged with an offence under Article 228 (Section 2) of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal acquisition and possession of narcotics in a large quantity). Oyub Titiev has been held on remand since 9 January 2018, the day a packet containing 206,9 g of marijuana was planted in his car during a search of his vehicle.

We have repeatedly written about the unlawful prosecution of our colleague. Nonetheless, we wish to repeat the main reasons why we consider Oyub Titiev to be not only wholly innocent of the charges, but also a political prisoner.

Over the past few months Titiev and other Memorial staff in Chechnya have worked on the high-profile case of 27 residents of the republic who were detained and subsequently disappeared (presumptively shot).

Senior representatives of the political leadership of the Chechen republic have repeatedly expressed extremely negative views about human rights defenders. For example, at the end of December 2017 a statement, made on 25 December 2017 by the speaker of the Chechen parliament, Magomed Daudov, was published on the parliament’s website and in the media. Daudov directly linked the inclusion by the US authorities of the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, in the Magnitsky List, and the blocking of Kadyrov’s social media accounts, with the activities of human rights defenders and openly called for their prosecution.

After the arrest of Oyub Titiev and the arson attack on Memorial’s office in Nazran on 17 January 2018, evening news broadcasts on Grozny TV showed Ramzan Kadyrov speaking at a meeting with officials from the Chechen branches of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Guard in which Kadyrov called independent human rights defenders «enemies of the people» engaged in «informing» and discrediting their own people. Kadyrov said there was no room for human rights defenders in Chechnya, they would be stopped from working in the republic, and their relatives held to answer for their activities.

Later, in an interview with the DailyStorm, Ramzan Kadyrov alleged Oyub Titiev smoked marijuana and said Titiev’s son was a drug addict. A campaign to discredit Titiev was launched in the Chechen media. He was branded a representative of the «fifth column» and it was alleged he had relatives in the illegal armed groups and was himself a drug user.

Oyub Titiev’s lawyer, Petr Zaikin, has been subjected to demonstrative surveillance on the territory of Chechnya.

The chair of the board of Memorial Human Rights centre, Aleksandr Cherkasov, has pointed out: «If we recall the cases of Ruslan Kutaev, convicted after he organized a discussion to mark the anniversary of the deportation of the Vainakh peoples, Caucasian Knot correspondent Zhalaudi Geriev and others who have been convicted ostensibly for drug offences, we can say this is a kind of tradition in Chechnya. One can also recall the words of Alaudinov [deputy minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs] who urged people to fight their enemies by planting drugs on them. The charges against Oyub Titiev have obviously been fabricated.»

As Titiev’s colleagues well know, he has very strong views against harmful habits in general, and drug use in particular — both as an observant Muslim and as a sportsman. Titiev leads a healthy life and exercises on a regular basis. Nonetheless, according to the law enforcement agencies, Oyub Titiev allegedly transported a large quantity of marijuana in his car while a campaign is underway in Chechnya that has seen the detention of a very large number of real and purported drug users, a campaign being carried out with gross infringements of human rights. Titiev is well-informed about this campaign. These circumstances make the charge of possessing drugs implausible.

The very actions of the police officers clearly make it possible to argue that the drugs were planted and the charges subsequently fabricated. The initial inspection of Titiev’s car, during which a packet of marijuana was «found," was conducted without witnesses, no doubt because the officers believed he would later admit his guilt at the police station. When Titiev refused to admit his guilt, but instead insisted that the drugs had been planted and demanded the police act in accordance with the law, the officers took him and the car away from the police station and conducted a second «official» search in the presence of witnesses. Titiev’s account, according to which there was not one search but two, has been indirectly confirmed by a witness.

After wipe samples had been taken from Titiev’s hands for analysis, he was taken out of the office before the samples were sealed; when he was brought back, the envelopes had already been sealed. As a result, it is not known precisely what samples were added to the case materials.

During the «conversations» police officers conducted with Titiev in the seven hours between his actual detention and when he was first allowed to see a lawyer, they persistently sought to persuade him to admit his guilt.

The above indicates gross violations of procedural norms that invalidate all evidence obtained by means of these unlawful actions.

Additional cause for concern is the fact that, literally a few of days after Titiev’s detention, the investigators — three in number — conducted a large amount of work with a speed unusual for ordinary criminal cases of this type. The defence did not receive a copy of the official instruction on the basis of which the criminal investigation was being conducted. A review of the procedural documents indicated to the defence that they had been drawn up beforehand. Even the assistant prosecutor of Kurchaloi district, I. D. Kadyrov, spoke of the possibility that the drugs had been planted in these circumstances.

These features of the case against Oyub Titev would indicate Titiev has been deprived of his liberty in order to stop his peaceful public activities aimed at enhancing the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. At the same time, Titiev has been deprived of his liberty in violation of the right to a fair trial and of other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Deprivation of liberty has been justified by means of evidence that has been fabricated, for in fact no offence was committed.

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Oyub Titiev to be a political prisoner. We demand his immediate release and the prosecution of those persons complicit in the fabrication of the criminal case against him.

For more information about this case, see here.

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Титиев Оюб Салманович родился 24 августа 1957 года, живёт в селе Курчалой Чеченской Республики, правозащитник, руководитель грозненского представительства Правозащитного центра (ПЦ) «Мемориал».