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Jailed Activist Tells Putin: 'If I Confess, It Means Torture Or Blackmail'


Oyub Titiyev was on his way to get a new dental prosthesis when he was detained on January 9.
Oyub Titiyev was on his way to get a new dental prosthesis when he was detained on January 9.

A human rights activist who has been detained on a drug-possession charge in Chechnya has written a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that he is innocent.

In the letter published by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta on January 16, Oyub Titiyev accused police of planting drugs in his car and voiced concern that he could be tortured in an attempt to force a confession.

"The criminal case against me is fabricated.... I have not and will not admit guilt," Titiyev wrote in the letter, which is scrawled in ink and dated January 12.

"I want to inform you that if I in any way acknowledge that I am guilty of what I am accused of, it will mean that I have been forced to admit guilt by means of physical coercion or blackmail," he wrote.

The letter is addressed to Putin, federal Investigative Committee Chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin, and Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Aleksandr Bortnikov.

Titiyev, the head of the prominent Russian human rights group Memorial's office in Chechnya, was detained on January 9 by police who claimed they had found about 180 grams of marijuana in his car.

His arrest, on charges colleagues and other supporters also contend were fabricated, has underscored concerns in Russia and the West about the tactics employed by security forces under Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Publication of the letter came a day after a lawyer for Titiyev said that he had been suffering severe pain and been denied the medical help he needs.

Almost a week after he was detained, Titiyev remained in a temporary police detention unit that has no medical staff, attorney Pavel Zaikin said on January 15.

Under Russian regulations for handling detainees, he should have been transferred to a facility with medical services, Zaikin said.

The lawyer said that Titiyev, 60, was on his way to get a new dental prosthesis when he was detained.

"He feels excruciating pain," Zaikin said, adding that Titiyev "is unable to eat without the prosthesis, and therefore the only food he is eating now is a puree for toddlers."

He said that the authorities had not allowed medical personnel from clinics outside the penitentiary system to visit Titiyev.

Zaikin also said that investigators told him that Titiyev -- the head of the prominent Russian human rights group Memorial's office in Chechnya -- would be transferred no earlier than January 19.

"Titiyev's colleagues have every reason to believe that such an attitude toward Titiyev is a way putting political pressure on him," Zaikin said.

On January 14, Zaikin said that some of Titiyev's relatives left Chechnya after police imposed pressure on them.

Memorial has charged that the case against Titiyev was "fabricated" to retaliate against the activist's human rights activities.

Colleagues say he is a devout Muslim and a teetotaler who does not use drugs, and call the possession charge absurd.

Putin's advisory council on human rights has urged the Investigative Committee to look into the circumstances of Titiyev's detention, saying there were "grounds to believe" the marijuana "could have been planted" in his car.

Western governments and human rights organizations condemned Titiyev's arrest and called for his release.

Chechen authorities have denied any political motivation behind Titiyev's arrest.

Activists say that Kadyrov, who was appointed by Putin in 2007 to head the region in the North Caucasus, rules through repressive measures and has created a climate of impunity for security forces.

They also charge that Kadyrov has been responsible for abuses that include kidnappings, disappearances, torture, and killings of political opponents.

Natalya Estemirova, who was Titiyev's predecessor at Memorial in Chechnya and was investigating alleged rights abuses in Chechnya by regional authorities and Russian military forces, was abducted and killed in Grozny in 2009.

Kremlin critics say Putin turns a blind eye to alleged abuses and violations of the Russian Constitution by Kadyrov because he relies on the former rebel to control separatist sentiments and violence in Chechnya, the site of two devastating post-Soviet wars and an Islamist insurgency that spread to Russia's other mostly Muslim regions in the North Caucasus.

With reporting by Current Time TV, Novaya Gazeta and Interfax
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