June 21, 2019 / 2:12 PM / a month ago

Freed Russian rights advocate says he won't return to job in Chechnya

Oyub Titiev, the head of the Chechen office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, is seen outside of a penal colony settlement after his release, in the town of Argun, in Chechnya, Russia, June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Said Tsarnayev

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A prominent Russian human rights advocate jailed on charges his supporters say were trumped up walked free on Friday, but said he would not return to his work in Chechnya because he felt the risk to his staff there would be too great.

Oyub Titiev, 61, who ran the Chechen office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, which reports on rights abuses in the region, was granted early release after being sentenced to four years in jail for illegal drug possession, charges he denied.

Met by supporters and family, Titiev said after his release that Memorial would no longer work in Chechnya in southern Russia, “for the moment, anyway”.

“I will continue to work — only not in Chechnya, but in a different region. I’m afraid of hiring anyone in Chechnya, to ask people to take on this work. And it would be hard on my own,” Titiev said, according to the RBC media portal.

“There is no insurance, so I don’t want to take risks with colleagues,” he was quoted as saying.

Titiev, who was arrested last year, led a team that reported on disappearances, torture and punitive house burnings in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region governed by Ramzan Kadyrov, whom rights workers accuse of widespread abuses, allegations he denies.

He and his supporters allege he was framed to punish him for his human rights work and to keep Memorial from working in Chechnya, where its investigations have regularly irritated the authorities.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Larry King

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