Chechen Rights Defender Titiyev Granted Early Release On Parole

The Shali district court in Russia's Chechnya region says it has granted an early release from prison to human rights activist Oyub Titiyev.

The court on June 10 announced its decision to release Titiyev on parole. The ruling is expected to take up to 10 days to come into force.

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 the authorities in order to silence the group 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 a 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 could seek release on parole after serving at least one-third of his prison term. Counting his time spent in pretrial detention, Titiyev reached that mark -- 16 months in detention -- on May 9.

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 control.

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

Based on reporting by Interfax, TASS, and RIA Novosti