Amnesty International has criticized the refusal of a court in Russia's Chechnya region to release a leading activist on bail.
The Shali City Court on November 26 rejected a bail request for Oyub Titiyev, the head of the prominent Russian human rights group Memorial's office in Chechnya, who’s been detained since January. The judge reportedly stated that the defense did not present enough evidence to mitigate the previous grounds for his arrest.
"The decision not to grant bail to Oyub Titiyev once again demonstrates the political motivation of the case against him. He has committed no crime, having been jailed on completely fabricated drug charges, and must be released immediately and unconditionally," Amnesty International Russia researcher Natalia Prilutskaya said.
"This case is an affront to justice which highlights the Chechen government's intolerance of opposing views and is further evidence that human rights defenders jailed in Chechnya cannot rely on the tools of justice to help them," Prilutskaya added.
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.
Titiyev has been in custody since he was detained by police in Chechnya who said they found a plastic bag with 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 -- ruled for years by Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov -- and other parts of Russia's North Caucasus.
Memorial has called the charges against Titiyev "bogus," saying they were "clearly fabricated as a means of silencing him."
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.
Rights activists say that Kadyrov, who was appointed to head Chechnya by President Vladimir Putin in 2007, rules through repressive measures and has created a climate of impunity for security forces in the province.
Kremlin critics contend that Putin has given Kadyrov free rein because he relies on him to keep a lid on separatism and insurgent violence after two devastating post-Soviet wars in the region.