MOSCOW — A prominent Russian rights group says one of its activists has been arrested in the province of Chechnya on trumped-up charges.
The Memorial group said that Oyub Titiev, the head of its branch in Chechnya, was arrested Tuesday on charges of unlawful drug possession that he rejected.
Human Rights Watch denounced Titiev’s arrest as a “disgraceful attempt at silencing Memorial.” It emphasized that framing people for drug crimes has become a favorite tactic of Chechen authorities to punish critics.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday that Titiev’s arrest is “the latest in a string of reports of alarming recent human rights violations in Chechnya” and urged his immediate release.
The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, called Titiev’s arrest “a very worrying signal” and demanded his release.
A German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman urged Russian authorities to ensure Titiev is treated in a “transparent manner and according to the rule of law.” Maria Adebahr told reporters in Berlin that the work of Titiev and Memorial is “invaluable to many people, especially in Chechnya.” She said Germany would be closely monitoring the case.