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Russian court rules to free Chechen human rights advocate Oyub Titiev

Published: Updated:

Russia Chechen human rights advocate Oyub Titiev was granted early release by a Russian court on Monday after being given a four-year penal colony sentence earlier this year, his lawyer and supporters said.

Titiev, who ran the Chechen office of the Memorial Human Rights Center that reports on rights abuses in the region, was sentenced in March after the court found him guilty of possessing illegal drugs, a charge his supporters say was trumped up.

Titiev, 61, is expected to be released next week. “The verdict will come into force in ten days,” Memorial tweeted after a judge read out the decision. The court hearing on his early release petition was held at the penal colony.

Titiev was arrested early last year. Under Russian law, a prisoner can ask for an early release if convicted under an offence qualifying as non-serious and if more than a third of jail term has been served, which Titiev has done, given time served before his sentencing.

Before his arrest, Titiev led a team that reported disappearances, torture, and punitive house burnings in Chechnya. Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who earlier supported Titiev’s arrest, welcomed the court decision about his release.

“If a court found it possible to release Titiev earlier, I am sure that all the circumstances were studied and an objective decision was made,” Kadyrov said in a statement.