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Chechen human rights icon Oyub Titiev sentenced to four years for controversial drug-possession conviction

Chechnya’s Shalinsky District Court has convicted human rights activist Oyub Titiev of illegal drug possession, sentencing him to four years in a penal colony settlement.

Titiev, who heads the Chechen branch of the human rights organization Memorial, was arrested in January 2018. Police say they found 200 grams of marijuana in his car, but Titiev maintains that the drugs were planted in his vehicle.

Human rights officials throughout the world have denounced the case against Oyub Titiev as a politicized trial. Titiev’s lawyer, Ilya Novikov, says the charges are retaliation for “Case 27,” the reported mass execution of at least 27 people outside Grozny on January 26, 2017, which the newspaper Novaya Gazeta uncovered in July 2017. Novikov also links the charges against Titiev to threats from Magomed Daudov, the speaker of Chechnya’s Parliament, who has blamed human rights advocates for the blocking of Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov’s coveted Instagram page in December 2017.

While in jail awaiting trial, Oyub Titiev was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, which honors outstanding achievements in defending human rights in Europe and beyond.