During the hearing, Mr. Titiyev talked in detail about how he was detained twice. First, officers in uniform with the «RRU» stripes, then police officers, forced a confession of drug possession, as he met Baskhanov, a witness in the case, several days before his arrest. He also spoke on the threats and surveillance of Oyub Titiyev and Memorial Human Rights Center that occurred during the investigation of the alleged extrajudicial execution of 27 residents of Chechnya.
The trial of Oyub Titiyev in the Shali City Court of Chechnya continued on November 19, 2018. During the trial, four defense witnesses were questioned followed by Oyub Titiyev’s testimony.
Judge Madina Zainetdinova is presiding over the case. The defense of Titiyev at the hearing was carried out by lawyers Peter Zaikin, Marina Dubrovina and Ilya Novikov. The prosecution is supported by a prosecutor of the Kurchaloevsky District, Dzhabrail Akhmatov, and an employee of the Republic’s prosecutor’s office, Milana Baitayeva.
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Recall that the head of the Grozny office of the Memorial Human Rights Center, Oyub Titiyev, on January 9, 2018 in Chechnya, allegedly due to the discovery of cannabis in his car. A criminal case was opened against Titiyev under Part 2 of Art. 228 of the Criminal Code. He does not admit his guilt. Memorial claims that the criminal case against him has been falsified. Obyu is recognized as a political prisoner.
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Svetlana Gannushkina, Nikolay Rybakov (Yabloko), Ales Bialiatski and Sergei Sys (BelarusHuman Rights Centre «Viasna»), and Mr. Titiyev’s relatives and neighbors were present in the courtroom. Ales Bialiatski is the winner of the Vaclav Havel Prize, which Oyub was awarded this year. Because of his human rights advocacy, Mr. Bialiastki did time in prison in Belarus from 2011 to 2014 on falsified charges.
At the beginning of the meeting, Oyub’s neighbors from his village were questioned: Aishat Magomadova, Patimat Denislamova, Rumis Magomadova, Zareta Gabaeva and Khavazh Gitayev. They all know Oyub Titiyev well and describe him as kind, sympathetic, and reliable. They say that he is always ready to help, has good relations with everyone, practices sports to stay physically fit, and is a practicing Muslim. Likewise, they noted that he does not have any bad habits. According to the witnesses, no one they have spoken with has believed the charges was detained against Oyub Titiyev are true and, on the contrary, everyone is convinced that drugs were planted on Oyub.
After the recess, the court questioned Oyub Titiyev.
Drugs Planted to Oyub’s Car
«If you want this to be by the law, then it will be by the law.»
Oyub said that in the summer of 2001 in Kurchaloye there was a military clearing operation. As a result, five people were dead and hundreds mutilated. The day after the operation, Memorial employees arrived there, including Natalya Estemirova (killed in 2009). At this time, Oyub met with Natalya and was invited to work at Memorial. At first he worked in the Gudermes office, but since 2011 he headed the Grozny office. During these 17 years, there have been many threats to Oyub Titiyev and his colleagues. They were forced more than once to leave the Chechen Republic and Russia. The current case has nothing to do with drugs- Oyub is being persecuted for his work.
On the evening of January 8, 2018, Titiyev went out into the yard and did some exercises before bed. He looked at the car, pulled out the rugs, washed them, put them in front of the car so that they would dry in the morning.
On the morning of January 9, he got up, prayed, and did his morning routine. Around 9:00 am he put the rugs in the car along with a travel bag. At this time, Oyub’s friend Usman Yusupov called him. Oyub agreed with that he would call when he was getting gas and then pick him up from Mayrtup.
Then Oyub Titiyev told in detail about how he was stopped by three security officials in a green camouflage uniform with the «RRU» stripes in a camouflaged UAZ Patriot. They checked his documents and asked to open the trunk and to see inside the travel bag. When one of the security officials was inspecting the trunk in the presence of Oyub, the other policeman opened the front door. Oyub could not see what the policeman was doing there at the front door. After some time, the policeman called them and, when they approached, took a package from under the seat, put it on the hood and untied it. Inside the outer package was another bag. The police asked Oyub what it was. He came up, pushed open the edge of the package, saw the green substance, and said, «You should know what it is, because you put it there.»
Then they went to the Kurchaloevsky police station. Oyub was in his car, but a police officer was driving. When entering the police station, no one asked for identification papers. Oyub’s car was parked on the at the police station and Oyub was taken to the second floor of the Criminal Investigation Department to a room opposite the stairs. His documents, three telephones, a weapon and the package were delivered here. At the request of the policeman, Oyub laid out money from his pockets, more than 34 thousand rubles (he had planned to get dentures and install gas equipment), and several keys.
Then he was taken to the office of the chief investigator, Denis Dzhabrailov. Dzhabrailov demanded to know where Oyub got the drugs. Oyub spoke in detail about how the drugs were planted, but Dzhabrailov did go along with that story. He insisted that the drugs belonged to Oyub, demanded a confession and threatened that he if did not get a confession he would fabricate a case on unlawful military activities against him. The conversation lasted about an hour. Oyub said that the actions of the police were illegal, to which Dzhabrailov replied, «If you want this to be by the law, then it will be by the law.»
Everything is according to the law
Oyub was taken out of the office, given a passport, the documents from the car, money and his car keys. A policeman very similar to Tataev (see Tataev’s testimony) led him out of the building and was taken to a car. Oyub got behind the wheel with the police officer sitting next time telling him the leave the police station.
In the place where Oyub was detained earlier, officer Khutaev was already standing (see the testimony of Kh. Khutaev). He stopped Oyub’s car. The policeman accompanying him went out, and Khutaev approached the driver’s seat, asked for documents and insurance, which, according to Khutaev, was overdue. Then, on the orders of Khutaev, Oyub got out of the car, opened the trunk and began to lay things out of the trunk.
At this time, the police «discovered» the package in the same place where a RRU had «found» it. They called the investigative unit, which arrived quickly, in 12 mins. Such speed, according to Oyub, means that the group had been formed in advance. When it was over, Oyub refused to sign the report.
At that time, Yusupov, Oyub’s friend, drove up in a car, but Oyub gave him a sign not to approach. Oyub wanted him to follow his car after all is over to figure out where the authorities would take him. Oyub revoked a case when a journalist Zhalaudi Geriev had been detained, but instead of being taken to a police station, was driven to a forest. Geriev admitted to drug possession afterwards.
When Yusupov drove past the second time, Oyub again gave him a sign not to drive up. After drafting athe protocol, Oyub and policemen went to the Kurchaloevsky police station. Oyub was in his car with policeman Magomadov.
When deposed in court, the police officers said that they had drawn up reports that the headlight on Oyub’s car was not turned on and that he did not have a valid insurance policy. However, no one presented this report to Oyub.
At the police station, Oyub put the car in the shed. Oyub, was taken to Dzhabrailov who said, «Now everything is according to the law». A policeman came in and asked Oyub for the keys to the car to drive it to the parking lot. The officer went out got the keys from Oyub, moved the car and came back and gave back the keys. Then Tataev came in and also asked for the keys to move the car. Oyub said that the car had already been moved, but gave the keys to Tataev. Oyub has not seen the keys since.
After that, Oyub was taken to policemen Magomadov’s office. Magomadovand Kolyada (see they were interrogated by the court behind closed doors) were there with two attesting witnesses. At the direction of the police, Oyub cut his nails and Kolyada put the nail clippings into envelopes. He did not seal it. They swiped his hands to get samples. While Magomadov and Kolyada were filling out the documents, at the request of Dzhabrailov, Oyub was taken out of the office, then brought back, then taken out again. Dzhabrailov said that Oyub had to testify. Instead, Dzhabrailov asked some meaningless questions and signed a paper stating that Oyub refused to testify against himself. Later, he could not find this statement in court files. He was then again taken to Magomadov’s office, but no one was there.
Oyub was taken to the drug treatment center in the village Chernoreche in the city of Grozny. Oyub passed all of the tests, which were led by Gazaliyev.
Oyub believes that Magomadov manipulated the drug tests and that it was precisely for this reason that Dzhabrailov led Oyub out of the office. When he was tested in the drug center, no traces of drugs had been identified.
The keys to the office in Grozny, to his house, and to his safes, which Oyub had on him at the time of his detention, turned out to be in the police’s possession.
They returned to Kurchaloy at around 7pm. Oyub was taken to the office of the head of investigation unit, who asked about Oyub’s health and asked if he wanted to drink or eat. Oyub asked for water. Then he was taken to another office where lawyer Sultan Telkhigov and Chechen pro-government public activist Kheda Saratova were waiting. In their presence, Oyub spoke about the drug testing. Saratova left. Oyub talked to Telkhigov.
That night Oyub was taken to Shali, and then on January 10 back to Kurchaloy to the office with RRU officers. Their chief told that there was already too much noise around the case. He demanded Oyub to confess. Oyub refused. He was taken to a cell and some time later returned to the same room, where there were people waiting. Oyub was handcuffed, his mouth was tightly tied up with scotch tape, and confessions were demanded, but Oyub again refused. At that moment, the commander came in and ordered Oyub be untied. Oyub was untied and taken to investigator Salamov, where there were already lawyers Sultan Telkhigov and Peter Zaikin.
On January 11 was a preliminary hearing. Oyub asked to question him. Salamov did not support it. After lawyers objections, Oyub was finally questioned on January 28.
Then Oyub talked about the identification procedures conducted on 26–28 January. During this procedure a prosecution witness Baskhanov failed to identify Oyub on 26 January. On 28 January he claimed to have identified him earlier.
Oyub stated that he saw him on January 4 near Memorial’s office. On that day, Oyub drove to the office, which was located on the third floor of an apartment building, to check the premises. Baskhanov stood on the landing between the second and third floors and looked intently at Oyub.
According to Oyub, was detained in Sernovodsk. On 26 January he came to the identification in an expensive jacket, his pupils were obviously dilated, and he had delayed reactions. Baskhanov could not identify Oyub. It was noted in the report, which the investigator gave out and everyone read. Nobody objected to the report. The next day there was a new confrontation with investigator who led the identification a day before. The investigator was scared, he had a bruise on his face, which Oyub believes he got in a beating after not being able to identify him. The investigator said he made a mistake — Baskhanov identified Oyub during the identification.
On 28 January a new identification was conducted with Baskhanov. He claimed he recognized Oyub two days before. Baskhanov, testifying in court, said: «I thought that Titiyev would bribe himself out the prison," but the translator did not translate these words.
Lawyer Telkhigov tried to meet with Oyub from the morning of January 9 but was told that Titiyev was not detained. He was finally allowed to talk to Oyub after policemen finished with Oyub that day.
Later, someone called Telkhigov and said: «You crashed my car, I must meet with you to sort it out." Sultan Telkhigov gave his address. The man did not come although he tried in every possible way to get the lawyer out of the house.
The investigator also tried to get Telkhigov out of the house. He asked him to come to police station for investigative actions. When he came, no actions were done, although Oyub was there. The situation became even more suspicious when the story repeated. The investigator Salamov was constantly trying to get Telkhigov to police station for four days; although there was no need for him. Oyub’s another lawyer Zaikin was present.
Oyub decided that it was becoming dangerous for Telkhigov to represent him. He asked Telkhigov to withdraw from the case.
Hostile Atmosphere for Human Rights Activists in the Chechen Republic
Attorney Novikov asked about Oyub being under constant pressure from the authorities. Earlier, various defense witnesses tried to talk about this in court, but were constantly interrupted.
Oyub said this is undoubtedly relevant as the case was fabricated because of the work of Oyub and Memorial. According to him, there were a lot of threats, and since the summer, close surveillance of the Memorial office in Grozny began after the parents of people who disappeared and were allegedly executed by law enforcement agencies turned to Memorial for help.
Starting from September, there was a car on duty in his yard — its license plate had been changed several times since September. Once, when Oyub was going to dinner, a man took a picture of him.
When Oyub flew to Istanbul from Grozny, the border guard asked when he would return and on his return at 3:00 am, the passport control officer took his passport and tried to call someone for a long time, but apparently did not get through. This guard asked Oyub where he received a passport, then put a stamp and let him go. According to Oyub, the border guard informed someone about Oyub’s return. Then there was a speech by parliamentary chairman Magomed Daudov, who accused human rights activists of interfering with the work of the Chechen authorities. Shortly after this speech, o Oyub was arrested.
Oyub said that in his 17 years of work, he never believed that he was safe, he knew that there could be a provocation or drugs planted on him at any moment.
«We all know perfectly well that I have no relation to these drugs," said Oyub Titiyev. In his opinion, there was a deliberate fabrication of evidence.
Zaikin asked about the «case of the 27th." Prosecutor Baytaeva asked to withdraw the question, but the judge refused. Oyub said that he collected information on the case and gave it to the lawyers and colleagues. People, relatives of persons involved in the so-called «firing list» appealed to Oyub, as they trusted him.
The next hearing is scheduled for November 20, 2018.