Credit: Dmitry Borko/Memorial HRC

Farcical trial in Chechnya – Oyub Titiev sentenced to four years in prison

Credit: Dmitry Borko/Memorial HRC
Credit: Dmitry Borko/Memorial HRC

Earlier today, Mr Oyub Titiev, Head of the Human Rights Center Memorial’s Chechen office, was sentenced to four years in prison. The verdict follows after a clearly political trial based on trumped-up charges. Memorial, the most prominent human rights organisation in Russia, received the Right Livelihood Award in 2004 and remains under heavy pressure from authorities.

“The trial against Oyub Titiev has been a farce from day one. It’s not every day that you come across such a well-documented case of a political trial based on trumped-up charges”, says Fabiana Leibl, Head of Protection and Advocacy at the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

In January 2018, the head of the Chechnya office of Memorial, Titiev, was arrested on fabricated drug possession charges and has been in pre-trial detention ever since. Today, he was sentenced to 4 years in prison. The reading of his sentence lasted more than 9 hours, with Titiev standing without a break.

Mr Titiev’s trial has been corrupted by falsified evidence and serious violations of due process and fair trial, which have demonstrated many inconsistencies in the authorities’ account of events. However, the Courts have repeatedly denied Titiev’s defences’ requests for investigations into evidence tampering.

The International Federation for Human Rights is one of many international human rights organisations that has documented the political trial against Titiev. They have stated:

“Interestingly, none of the 17 video cameras in the police station and on the way to the police station, including those at business stores and pharmacies, functioned on the day of Oyub’s arrest: according to the prosecution, they were all on repair, although no proof was so far provided.”

This is just one example of the many remarkable “coincidences” that has corrupted the trial against Titiev. The arrest and trial against Titiev have drawn criticism from the international community. Right Livelihood Award Laureates have, together with UN experts, the European Parliament, and civil society organisations condemned Titiev’s detention and demanded his immediate release by the Russian authorities.

“We urge the Russian authorities to unconditionally release Oyub Titiev straightaway, drop all charges against him, cease the harassment of Memorial’s staff, and guarantee accountability for the attacks against Memorial’s workers and offices”, says Fabiana Leibl.

On the 13th of March, during the 40th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation in an oral statement called on Chechnya to acquit Mr Oyub Titiev of the clearly fabricated criminal charges under which he is now detained.

Memorial received the Right Livelihood Award in 2004, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ for “showing, in traumatic times, the importance of understanding the historical roots of human rights abuse, to secure respect for them in the future.” Owing to its important work documenting human rights abuses, Memorial has been subject to alarming attacks, both to their offices and staff, particularly in the North Caucasus region.

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