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Oyub Titiev detained and facing criminal investigation

Status: 
In pre-trial detention
About the Situation

On 25 January 2018, in an appeal hearing, the Supreme Court of Chechnya confirmed the pre-trial detention of Oyub Titiev, head of Human Rights Centre Memorial (HRC Memorial) office in Chechnya. In an earlier hearing the same day, at 11am, Oyub Titiev was not brought to the courtroom and his lawyers were not informed of his whereabouts. The judge then postponed the hearing until 5pm the same day. In between the two hearings, colleagues and the lawyers of Oyub Titiev were not informed about his whereabouts.

About Oyub Titiev

oyub_titiev_credit_crimerussiacom_165.jpgOyub Titiev is a human rights defender who works at Human Rights Center Memorial, a human rights organisation that provides legal assistance to victims of gross human rights violations and is involved in human rights education, research and publications. After the killing of his colleague Natalia Estemirova in July 2009, Oyub Titiev became the head of the Chechen office of the organisation. In recent years, Oyub Titiev has received numerous threats linked to his human rights work.

26 January 2018
Pre-trial detention of Oyub Titiev confirmed in appeal hearing amid fears for his safety in detention

On 25 January 2018, in an appeal hearing, the Supreme Court of Chechnya confirmed the pre-trial detention of Oyub Titiev, head of Human Rights Centre Memorial (HRC Memorial) office in Chechnya. In an earlier hearing the same day, at 11am, Oyub Titiev was not brought to the courtroom and his lawyers were not informed of his whereabouts. The judge then postponed the hearing until 5pm the same day. In between the two hearings, colleagues and the lawyers of Oyub Titiev were not informed about his whereabouts.

On 9 January 2018, Oyub Titiev was charged with large scale drug possession under point 2 of Article 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He was arrested in Grozny on 9 January 2018 on the road to Kurchaloy, Chechnya and charged with drug possession. He was then held incommunicado for almost eight hours before being granted access to a lawyer.

According to his lawyer, Oyub Titiev reported that he had been detained twice on the same day. He was stopped first by a road police patrol on the morning of 9 January and ordered out of his car, questioned on the roadside and instructed to open the boot of the car. During this time it is believed that a bag of marijuana was planted underneath the front seat of his car by a road police officer, which was then ‘found’ by a fellow officer searching the car. According to Russian law, at this stage the road police officers were obliged to report this find to the nearest police station which would send police officers to make the arrest and witnesses to certify the discovery. This did not take place and the human rights defender was instead brought to the Kurchaloy regional police station by road police officers where he protested his innocence and pointed out the illegal nature of his detention.

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Following his protests he was then released but instructed to drive his car back to the location where he had been detained earlier in the day. Once there, he was stopped again by the road police patrol and the bag of marijuana which had been earlier planted in his car was ‘found’ once again, at which time the discovery was reported to Kurchaloy regional police station. Police officers were then dispatched to the scene with witnesses, thereby meeting procedural requirements. He was subsequently charged with drug possession.

While in custody, Oyub Titiev was subjected to pressure to confess to the charges and threats were made to his family members. That evening, armed men arrived at his home looking for his brother and son. When they could not locate them, the armed men chased his female relatives from the house, locked the door and confiscated the keys. Following this, Oyub Titiev’s family fled the Chechen Republic.

On 11 January 2018, Shali City Court in Chechnya ordered the pre-trial detention of Oyub Titiev for a period of two months. The court rejected the request made by the defender’s lawyers to provide the defence with recordings of CCTV cameras installed on the road where Oyub Titiev was arrested and at Kurchaloy regional police station.

On 12 January 2018, Oyub Titiev’s lawyer published a letter the defender wrote in custody to President Putin and to Aleksander Batrykin, head of the  Federal Investigative Committee. In the letter, he protests his innocence and states that any confession extracted from him would be done so only through force.

On 15 January 2018, one of Oyub Titiev’s lawyers, Petr Zaikin, published a statement detailing the surveillance he, the lawyer, was placed under in Chechnya and published a photo of a car with a distinctive license plate following him. The distinctive nature of the license plate suggested that the car belonged to somebody with powerful connections. Oyub Titiev’s colleagues from the Moscow office of HRC Memorial who traveled to Chechnya also reported being placed under surveillance.

In a worrying related development, on 17 January 2017, two masked men set fire to the office of HRC Memorial in Nazran, Ingushetia, resulting in serious damage to three of the office’s six rooms. The threat to the work of HRC Memorial further escalated on 23 January 2018, when the car of one of the lawyers working for HRC Memorial in Makhachkala, Dagestan, was set on fire and threats of an arson attack were received at the organisation’s offices.

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned about the security and safety of Oyub Titiev in detention as it is feared that he may be subjected to ill-treatment. He is also in a fragile medical condition as he was arrested just before a medical appointment for new dentures. He currently has no access to a dentist in detention and is unable to eat solid food and has subsequently lost weight. Front Line Defenders further condemns the ongoing campaign of intimidation, harassment and criminal acts against HRC Memorial which it believes is solely as a result of the organisation’s work in defence of human rights.

12 January 2018
Oyub Titiev detained and facing criminal investigation

On 11 January 2018, Shali City Court in Chechnya issued a warrant for the arrest of human rights defender Oyub Titiev for a period of two months. He is charged with large scale drug possession under point 2 of Article 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

On 9 January 2018, Oyub Titiev was arrested by road police and brought to Kurchaloy district police station. He was held incommunicado for almost seven hours and was threatened that his family would be at risk if he did not plead guilty. In the evening of 9 January 2018, police went to Oyub Titiev’s house and looked for the defender’s son and brother before proceeding to search the house.

9 January 2018
Oyub Titiev facing criminal investigation

On 11 January 2018, Shali City Court in Chechnya ordered pre-trial detention of human rights defender Oyub Titiev for a period of two months. He is charged with large scale drug possession under point 2 of Article 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
 

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On 9 January, 2018 at approximatively 10:30AM, Titiev’s car was stopped by five road police officers on the road to Kurchaloy, Chechnya, and the defender was taken from his car. For five hours his whereabouts were unknown. His lawyer went to the Kurchaloy police station and was initially told that Oyub Titiev was not among the detainees. Several hours later, the head of Kurchaloy police station confirmed that the defender was detained there. Six hours after the detention of Titiev, his lawyer was admitted to the police station and was able to meet with Titiev. He was informed that during the search of Titiev’s car, police found a black plastic bag containing 180 grams of marijuana and the criminal investigation against Titiev was opened for “Illegal Making, Acquisition, Storage, Transportation, Sending, or Sale of Narcotic Drugs or Psychotropic Substances” under Article 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

The use of the Article 228 to discredit human rights activists is a tactic frequently used by Chechen authorities. In 2014, Ruslan Kutaev, Chechen civil society activist was sentenced on similar charges to four years in prison. He was released on parole at the very end of 2017. In 2016, Zhalaudi Geriev, human rights defender and independent journalist well known for reporting abuses by Chechen authorities was sentenced to three years imprisonment on charges of drug possession. Both men were tortured in custody.

Oyub Titiev’s colleagues at Human Rights Center Memorial have alerted the Russian Ombudswoman Tatiana Moskalkova and the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the arrest and arbitrary detention of human rights defender Oyub Titiev, which it believes is solely motivated by his peaceful and legitimate work for human rights in the Russian Federation, and calls on the Russian authorities to immediately release the human rights defender.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in the Russian Federation to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Oyub Titiev, as Front Line Defenders believes that he is being held solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;

2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee his physical and psychological security;

3. Ensure that the treatment of Oyub Titiev, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;

4. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in the Russian Federation are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.