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Oyub Titiyev appears in court on May 31.

A judge in Russia's Chechnya region has extended until July 9 the pretrial detention of activist Oyub Titiyev, according to Memorial, the Russian human rights group that Titiyev heads in Chechnya.

Memorial on May 31 called the action of the Grozny court "unjustified" and said Titiyev's attorneys expressed "bewilderment" at the decision.

The 60-year-old Titiyev heads the Chechen office of Memorial. He has been in pretrial detention in Chechnya since his arrest there on January 9 on drug charges that he and his associates say are fabricated.

Titiyev has insisted that drugs found in the car he was driving were planted as evidence against him.

He faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted.

On May 18, the world governing body of soccer, FIFA, issued a statement saying it was "deeply concerned" about Titiyev's case and urged that he be "granted a fair trial in accordance with international standards."

Russia is set to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup soccer championship from June 14 until July 15. The FIFA statement came in response to a request by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and 13 other international rights groups.

The Chechen capital, Grozny, has been selected as the training base of the Egyptian national team.

HRW has called the charges "bogus" and said the case "seems to be part of an effort by Chechen authorities to shut Memorial out of the region."

HRW on May 3 called on FIFA to use its "leverage" with the Kremlin ahead of the June 14 start of the World Cup to secure Titiyev's unconditional release.

"It is FIFA's view that, as a matter of principle, human rights defenders should be able to perform their work freely and without fear of reprisals," the May 18 FIFA statement said. "FIFA's leadership continues to be personally invested in engagements on the situation of Mr. Titiyev and we hope that a solution can be found in the near future."

Activists have been deeply concerned about human rights abuses in Chechnya under the administration of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov for many years. In January, Kadyrov called Titiyev a "drug addict" and said human rights defenders in general were "people without kinship, ethnicity, or religion."

Titiyev's predecessor as the head of Memorial's Grozny office, Natalya Estimirova, was abducted and killed in 2009, a case that remains unsolved.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of President Vladimir Putin's advisory council on human rights and civil society, in January called on the Interior Ministry to investigate the possibility that drugs were planted in Titiyev's car. However, the Chechen court on May 24 rejected Titiyev's request to open a criminal case against police, according to Interfax.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the U.S. State Department have also expressed concerns about Titiyev's arrest.

In Kyrgyzstan, nearly 14 percent of women under 24 married "through some form of coercion," the UN says.

BISHKEK -- United Nations agencies in Kyrgyzstan have expressed concern over the brutal killing of a 20-year-old woman by her abductor, and urged the Central Asian country to take "all appropriate measures" to stop illegal practices such as bride kidnapping as well as child and forced marriage.

The UN office in Kyrgyzstan said in a May 31 statement that such practices "do not belong to the culture and tradition of Kyrgyzstan but are a violation of the rights of vulnerable people."

"Child and/or forced marriage is a fundamental violation of human rights with far-reaching consequences not only to the individuals directly involved but to the well-being of the entire society," the statement added.

Kyrgyz prosecutors say they have opened a criminal investigation into the stabbing death of the young woman, hours after she was abducted by a man near Bishkek.

The May 27 killing of Burulai Turdaaly Kyzy, a graduate of a medical school in the Kyrgyz capital, occurred at a police precinct where she and her abductor had been taken after being detained by police.

Her father told RFE/RL that the attacker allegedly carved her initials and that of her fiance, who she had originally planned to marry, into the woman's body.

The 29-year-old suspected attacker, who has not been identified, was hospitalized after stabbing himself, officials said.

Bride kidnapping, which occurs in Kyrgyzstan and some parts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, has been illegal for years in Kyrgyzstan but prosecutions have been rare.

In 2012, Kyrgyz lawmakers strengthened the punishment, raising the maximum prison term from three to 10 years.

Despite "significant steps" to strengthen Kyrgyzstan's laws, "more work needs to be done in the prevention and prosecution of perpetrators as well as ensuring the protection of victims," the UN office said.

The latest available data in Kyrgyzstan shows that nearly 14 percent of women aged under 24 married "through some forms of coercion," according to the UN statement.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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