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Chechen Human Rights Activist Titiyev Released From Penal Colony

Oyub Titiyev is welcomed after being released in Argun on June 21.

Authorities in Russia's Chechnya region have released human rights activist Oyub Titiyev from a penal colony in Chechnya, 11 days after a court approved his early release on parole.

Titiyev left the detention facility in the town of Argun on June 21. He was met at the gates by a crowd that included relatives, friends, colleagues, supporters, and journalists.

The Shali district court in Russia's Chechnya region granted Titiyev early release on June 10.

Titiyev, the 61-year-old head of the Chechnya office of the human rights group Memorial, was arrested in January 2018 by police who claimed they found marijuana in his car.

Titiyev and Memorial say the drugs were planted there by authorities in order to silence the group's activities in Chechnya.

In March, the Shali court convicted Titiyev on charges of illegal drug possession and sentenced him to four years of forced labor in the Argun penal colony.

Titiyev, his lawyers, and supporters have rejected the charges against him as politically motivated.

His trial was closely watched by Western governments concerned about the rule of law in Russia. International human rights groups denounced the trial as a farce.

Under Russian law, Titiyev became eligible for release on parole after serving one-third of his sentence. Counting his time spent in pretrial detention, Titiyev reached that mark -- 16 months in detention -- on May 9.

Human rights activists contend that Chechnya's leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has committed serious human rights abuses -- including the widespread use of kidnapping, torture, and extrajudicial killings by forces under his power.

Kremlin critics say Russian President Vladimir Putin has given Kadyrov free rein in order to crack down on separatism and Islamic extremism following two post-Soviet wars in Chechnya.

Based on reporting by RIA Novosti, Interfax, and TASS