UPDATED: Rights Activist Detained In Chechnya
9 January, 2018

Update: Oyub Titiev’s lawyer has informed Novaya Gazeta that the rights activist is being charged with storing narcotics. The investigative newspaper believes the charges are false. “The employees of Novaya Gazeta have known Titiev for more than twenty years. This is a religious person who leads an exclusively healthy and athletic lifestyle,” the newspaper wrote. It notes that Chechen civic activist Ruslan Kutaev and Zhelaudi Geriev, a journalist for the independent Caucasian Knot news site, were both previously charged with and found guilty of politically motivated drug charges.

Armed men in Russia’s Chechnya region have detained the director of the Chechen branch of the Memorial human rights organization.

Oyub Titiev was stopped by men in traffic police uniforms at around 10:30 a.m. on a highway near the town of Kurchaloy and taken into custody. Currently, Titiev is being held in the Kurchaloy branch of the Interior Ministry, according to the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

Photo credit: Ekaterina Sokirianskaia

Memorial filed an urgent appeal to Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsman, Tatyana Moskalkova, and the Chairperson of the Presidential Human Rights Commission, Aleksandr Fedotov. Both officials promised to quickly make contact with the leadership of the Chechen Republic and the local Interior Ministry.

The Interior Ministry branch initially denied that Titiev was there. However, later the branch chief confirmed to Kheda Saratova, a member of the Chechen Human Rights Council, that Titiev was in their custody. He declined to explain why the rights activist had been detained.

Titiev has faced many threats during his many years working at Memorial. He took over the Chechen branch of the organization after its director, Natalya Esemirova, was killed in 2009 and a number of other Memorial employees were forced to flee Chechnya.

While he remains in detention, Titiev’s “life and health are in danger,” Sokirianskaia wrote on Facebook.

/By Matthew Kupfer