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21 Jun, 2019 15:35

Human rights activist Titiyev released from prison in Chechnya

Human rights activist Titiyev released from prison in Chechnya

The head of the Memorial Human Rights Center’s branch in Grozny, Oyub Titiyev, who was sentenced to four years in prison for drug possession, has been released after more than 18 months of detention in Chechnya.

Earlier in June, a Shalinsky district court in Russia’s Republic of Chechnya ordered the early release of Titiyev on parole, with the decision coming into force on Friday.

Titiyev was greeted by relatives, colleagues, and journalists as the gates of the penal colony settlement in Argun, 15km (9.3 miles) east of Grozny, closed behind him.

“I’m feeling fine,” Titiyev said, vowing to continue with his professional activities. “I’m still a Memorial employee. Until now, I was involved in human rights and I’ll keep doing it as long as health permits.”

His release occurred less than two weeks after the case of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov made headlines in Russia and abroad. Golunov was detained on suspicion of being a drug dealer, but the charges against him were dropped a few days later amid a massive public outcry. Two police generals were sacked as Golunov insisted that he had been framed by corrupt officers, while accusations against him were backed by some sketchy evidence.

Also on rt.com ‘Now I know a lot about fabricated drug arrests’: Full interview with Russian journalist Golunov

The trial on Titiyev, who was investigating the extrajudicial execution of terrorist suspects by Chechen law enforcement, was one of the most prominent in the republic in recent years. In March, the same Shalinsky district court sentenced him to a four-year prison term for being in possession of 180 grams of marijuana, which is considered a large batch in accordance with the Russian legislation. The activist didn’t appeal against the verdict, but also never admitted his guilt, saying that the drugs were planted in his car by the police.

International bodies, including the European Parliament and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have spoken out in support of Titiev. While behind bars, the activist was awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, welcomed the release of Titiyev, saying that he was sure that the court “studied all the circumstances [of the case] and made an objective decision.”

Titiyev leaving prison on parole doesn’t actually mean that he was acquitted of the crime, with the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, saying that “the battle for his full rehabilitation” should continue.

Also on rt.com US sanction Chechen special police force in latest Magnitsky Act blacklist for ‘human rights abuses’

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