SHALI, Russia -- Oyub Titiyev, a dogged Russian activist who is in jail and on trial in his native Chechnya on what he says is a fabricated drug-possession charge, says he was not tortured in prison only because of his age.
After the October 9 session of his trial, which was open to journalists, Titiyev told Current Time TV that he had been initially detained by security officers in January, who stopped his car and "planted drugs." Current Time TV is a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.
Titiyev has been in custody since he was detained on January 9 by security forces in Chechnya, who said they found a plastic bag with some 180 grams of marijuana in his car.
Titiyev said he was held in a police station for more than an hour, while officers tried to make him "confess" that he possessed marijuana.
"They then threatened to interrogate my relatives. After I refused to confess, they brought me back to the place where my car was initially stopped, and traffic police rearrested me after that. I guess they did not torture me only due to my age," said Titiyev, who is 61.
"If I were younger, the issue would have been 'solved' long ago, I guess," he said, suggesting he would have been tortured into confessing.
Titiyev, who succeeded the slain activist Natalya Estemirova as head of the Chechnya office of the prominent Russian human rights group Memorial in 2009, expressed his thanks to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for awarding him the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.
"Tell them I am grateful for their recognition of my humble work," Titiyev said.
The PACE announced the award on the opening day of its autumn plenary session on October 8.
Titiyev and his colleagues say the drugs were planted in his car and have described the case as part of an effort to push Memorial out of Chechnya -- ruled for years by Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov -- and other parts of Russia's North Caucasus.
He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted in the trial, some hearings of which were closed to the public in September.
The United States, several European Union member states, and the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner have condemned Titiyev’s arrest and expressed concerns about the case.
Memorial has called the charges against Titiyev “bogus,” saying they were “clearly fabricated as a means of silencing him.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called the charges a “pure fabrication” and Amnesty International has called the case “a grave injustice that strikes at the heart of Russia’s human rights community.”