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Jailed Human Rights Defender Titiyev Will Not Appeal His Sentence

Oyub Titiyev in court in the Chechen town of Shali in March.
Oyub Titiyev in court in the Chechen town of Shali in March.

Human rights activist Oyub Titiyev will not appeal the four-year penal colony sentence he was handed by a court in Russia's Chechnya region but will seek early release, the Moscow-based rights group Memorial says.

On April 1, the day Titiyev's sentence entered into force, Memorial said that Titiyev told his lawyer Pyotr Zaikin that he will continue to maintain his innocence but will not lodge an appeal because he wants to be released as early as possible. He said he will be eligible for release on parole next month.

Titiyev told Zaikin, who visited him in jail in Grozny on March 29, that he plans to continue to fight for the rights of ordinary people in Chechnya when he is released, Memorial said.

Titiyev, the head of Memorial's office in Chechnya, was arrested in January 2018 by police who claimed they found marijuana in his car -- an allegation he and Memorial say is unfounded and absurd. On March 18, a court in the Chechen town of Shali convicted the 61-year-old of illegal drug possession and sentenced him to four years in a colony-settlement, a penitentiary in which convicts live close to a facility where they work.

Titiyev, his lawyers, and supporters have rejected the charge as politically motivated. The trial was being closely watched by Western governments concerned about the rule of law in Russia and by human rights groups that have denounced it as a farce.

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.

Activists contend that Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who 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 by forces under his power.

Kremlin critics say Putin has given him free rein because he relies on him to keep a lid on separatism following two devastating post-Soviet wars in Chechnya.