The lawyer for a human rights activist jailed in Chechnya has asked for his case to be tried in a different Russian region because he said Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov's negative comments about his client might prejudice the court.
Oyub Titiyev, the head of a Chechnya branch of the respected human rights group Memorial, has been behind bars since his January arrest on drug charges. Titiyev denies the charges. The case is widely seen as punishment for Titiyev's work exposing human rights abuses in Chechnya.
Titiyev's lawyer, Ilya Novikov, told reporters in the Chechen capital Grozny on July 3 that local courts could not provide Tityev with a fair trial after Kadyrov made what he said were highly negative statements about his client. Novikov has asked Chechnya's Supreme Court to move the case to a different Russian province.
Western nations and international human rights groups have demanded that Russia release Titiyev and end what they have called a politically motivated prosecution.
Titiyev was arrested on January 9 on drug charges that he and his associates say are fabricated. Titiyev has insisted that drugs found in the car he was driving were planted as evidence against him.
He faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted.
Human Rights Watch has called the charges "bogus" and said the case "seems to be part of an effort by Chechen authorities to shut Memorial out of the region.”
A European Union spokeswoman last week called the charges “questionable” and demanded Titiyev's release, saying his arrest “appears to be directly connected to his human rights work.”