Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the refusal of a court in Russia’s Chechnya region to admit the last defense motion in the trial of leading human rights activist Oyub Titiyev, who has been behind bars for more than 13 months on drug charges described as “bogus” by rights groups and activists.
Tanya Lokshina, HRW’s associate director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a February 12 statement that the Shali City Court rejected the defense motion “just as [it] has declined all other defense motions” since the start of the “farcical trial” last summer.
Titiyev, the head of the prominent Russian human rights group Memorial’s office in Chechnya, has been detained since January 2018, when police said they found some 180 grams of marijuana in his car.
He and his colleagues contend that the drugs were planted and have described the case as part of an effort to push Memorial out of Chechnya — which has been ruled for years by Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov — and other parts of Russia’s North Caucasus.
“One more hearing remains in this farcical trial,” Lokshina said in the statement, adding, “Then the court will hear final arguments and Oyub’s final statement, which he has been writing and rewriting for a month now. Then, we will hear the verdict.”
The United States, several European Union member states, and the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner have condemned Titiyev’s arrest and voiced concern about the case.
Natalya Estemirova, Titiyev’s predecessor as head of the Memorial office in Chechnya, was abducted near her home in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in July 2009 and shot dead. Nobody has been convicted of her killing.
In August, Kadyrov threatened to ban human rights activists from Chechnya once Titiyev’s trial is over.