The European Union has called on Russian authorities to drop the criminal cases against human rights activists Oyub Titiyev and Yury Dmitriyev, saying they are facing "questionable" charges.
"Russia's international commitments include an obligation to protect human rights defenders. The European Union expects the Russian authorities to abide to these commitments," Maja Kocijancic, the spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, said in a statement on June 27, a day after a court in Chechnya confirmed Titiyev’s pretrial detention until July 9.
Kocijancic urged Russia to immediately release Titiyev, who was arrested in January on drug-possession charges that he and his associates say are fabricated.
Calling the charges "questionable," the EU spokeswoman said in a statement that Titiyev's arrest "appears to be directly connected to his human rights work."
Titiyev is the head of the respected Russian human rights group Memorial’s office in Chechnya.
Kocijancic noted that the group "has been targeted in recent months in the North Caucasus," citing arson attacks on its office in Ingushetia and on the car of Titiyev's lawyer in Daghestan, as well as an attack against Sirazhutdin Datsiyev, the head of Memorial’s office in Daghestan.
The spokeswoman also said that Dmitriyev, a member of the Russian human rights group Memorial, had faced "dubious" child-pornography charges.
On June 14, a court in Karelia overturned the 62-year-old’s acquittal and sent the case for retrial.
Late on June 27, Reuters reported that Dmitriyev's lawyer told Ekho Moskvy radio that he had been detained again as a result of the Karelia court decision.
Dmitriyev spent 13 months in custody before he was acquitted in his first trial on the child-pornography charges that he dismisses as politically motivated.
Prosecutors charged that Dmitriyev "prepared" and intended to distribute child pornography after 49 naked photographs of his adopted daughter were found on his computer.
But Dmitriyev testified that the photos were taken because medical workers had asked him to monitor the health and development of the girl, who was malnourished and ailing when Dmitriyev and his wife took her in as a foster child at age 3 with the intention of adopting her.
Dmitriyev is a Russian historian who helped uncover mass graves of gulag prisoners executed in the 1930s.
His supporters said the case was brought against him because he exposed a side of history that complicates the Kremlin's glorification of the Soviet past.