The head of a regional branch of Russia’s top rights group, Memorial, has been arrested in Chechnya, the organisation said Tuesday.
Oyub Titiyev, the leader of Memorial’s Chechnya branch “was arrested”, its council chairman Alexander Cherkasov told AFP, adding that the organisation was “extremely concerned”.
Mr. Titiyev left his home in the village of Kurchaloy on Tuesday to go to a meeting and later the group’s offices in the Chechen capital Grozny but never arrived, which alarmed his colleagues.
An acquaintance then drove along Titiyev’s presumed route and saw him surrounded by police on the side of the road, near his car, Cherkasov said.
“It was clear that the car was being thoroughly inspected, its bonnet and trunk opened,” he said.
The car was later seen in the parking lot of the Kurchaloy police station, but police have not confirmed the arrest and Mr. Titiyev has not answered calls.
News of Mr. Titiyev’s detention sparked immediate concern in Russia’s human rights community due to Chechnya’s intolerance of organisations like Memorial and the region’s infamous use of extrajudicial arrests and punishment.
Memorial speaks out about human rights violations in Russia and has specifically accused Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov of overseeing a “totalitarian” regime that uses kidnappings and torture.
Mr. Titiyev’s predecessor as the regional leader of Memorial, Natalia Estemirova, was kidnapped and killed in 2009. The rights group said the killers were acting on the orders of local authorities.
In a statement on its website, Memorial demanded authorities “provide complete information about the fate of Oyub Titiyev”.