Human rights activist Oyub Titiyev says he is certain he will be convicted by a court in Russia's Chechnya region next week after a drug-possession trial he described as "spitting at justice" and a remarkable exercise in "hypocrisy and cynicism."
Titiyev, the head of the Moscow-based human rights group Memorial's office in Chechnya, called the case "fabricated" in his final statement in court on March 11.
"I have no illusions about the verdict. I know it will be a guilty verdict," Titiyev said. "I trust in almighty God -- if he rules that I have to be behind bars, I will accept that, too."
Titiyev, a 61-year-old father of four, has been in jail since January 2018, when he was arrested after police stopped his car and alleged that they discovered marijuana in the vehicle. He says they drugs were planted there by police.
The Shali district court said the verdict will be pronounced on March 18. Prosecutors have urged the court to find him guilty and sentence him to four years in prison.
Human rights organizations, the United States, several European Union member states, the European Parliament, and the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner have condemned Titiyev's arrest and voiced concern about the case.
At the hearing on March 11, Titiyev said he was "certain that this trial has broken records for hypocrisy and cynicism" and also took aim at what he called Russia's "strange democracy," saying that "in democratic countries they don't jail people for a single click on the Internet." The Russian parliament, he said, "rubber-stamps laws restricting freedom every day."
Titiyev's lawyers reiterated the contention that their client is innocent and that the drugs were planted. They described the case as part of an effort to push Memorial out of Chechnya -- which has been ruled for 12 years by Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov -- and other parts of Russia's North Caucasus.
"The repressive machine of the Russian criminal justice system is in full swing, and we have already seen enough in this case to know that the purpose of Oyub's trial is not justice but revenge" for his work exposing rights abuses, Amnesty International Russia researcher Natalya Prilutskaya said in a statement the same day.
Activists say Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since he was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007, has committed serious human rights abuses, including the widespread use of kidnapping, torture, and extrajudicial killings.
Kremlin critics say Putin has given him free rein because he relies on his to keep a lid on separatism following two devastating post-Soviet wars in Chechnya.