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Maude Barlow calls for the release of human rights activist Oyub Titiev from Chechen prison

Council of Canadians honorary chairperson and Right Livelihood Award recipient Maude Barlow is calling for the release of Oyub Titiev, the head of the Chechnya office of the Russian human rights group Memorial.

The New York Times reports, “Ramzan A. Kadyrov did not sustain himself as the autocratic leader of the Chechen republic by failing to understand the value of propaganda and spectacle. …He has convinced a parade of athletes and celebrities to come here to take his hand and his money. Sports like soccer, boxing and mixed martial arts serve as Mr. Kadyrov’s passions and attempts at international legitimacy, economic development, enhancing his cult of personality at home and extending his brand of macho nationalism.”

The 2018 FIFA World Cup started on June 14 in Russia and will run through to July 15. Thirty-two teams are playing soccer matches in 11 cities and have base camps across the country. Notably, the Egyptian soccer team has its base camp in Grozny, the capital city of the Chechen Republic in Russia.

The New York Times article highlights, “Human Rights Watch called Egypt’s decision to train here ‘absolutely shocking and outrageous’, and it has called for the team to find a new base camp, saying that Mr. Kadyrov ‘exerts a ruthless grip on the region where extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances are common’ and there is ‘near-total repression of critics, journalists and L.G.B.T. people.'”

It then notes, “Last December, Mr. Kadyrov was added to a United States sanctions list over rights abuses. His Facebook and Instagram accounts, which had four million followers between them, were deactivated. Days later, in what some activists saw as retribution, Oyub Titiev, the Chechen head of a rights group called Memorial, was arrested, ostensibly on charges of possessing marijuana. (Drug charges are a favorite tactic for jailing critics here.) He faces a maximum prison term of 10 years.”

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation, which recognized Memorial’s human rights work with an award in 2004, notes, “Not long after Oyub Titiev’s arrest, Memorial offices in Nazran, Ingushetia were the target of an arson attack. In March 2018, organizations working in the region reported that unidentified persons physically assaulted Mr. Sirazhutdin Datsiyev, Head of the Human Rights Centre Memorial office in Dagestan.”

Tanya Lokshina, Russia Program Director for Human Rights Watch, writes, “It would only take one phone call from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kadyrov’s patron, to secure Titiev’s release. The leader of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, should use his leverage with the Kremlin to press for Titiev’s freedom.”

#FreeOyub #SupportMemorial