Arrest in Chechnya Reflects Effort to Drive Out Dissidents, Activists Say

Arrest in Chechnya Reflects Effort to Drive Out Dissidents, Activists Say

Chechnya, in the North Caucasus, is run by the strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. His father, Akhmad, had fought against Russia during the first Chechen war in the mid-1990s but later allied with President Vladimir V. Putin, who appointed him in 2000 to run the region. The elder Kadyrov was assassinated in 2004.

Mr. Kadyrov’s Facebook and Instagram accounts were recently deactivated because he had been added to a United States sanctions list. Mr. Kadyrov has reportedly been involved in torture, kidnapping and murder, as well as other human rights abuses.

Tanya Lokshina, the Russia program director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that fabricated drug charges were being used by the authorities to rid Chechnya of people who question Mr. Kadyrov’s rule.

“Framing people for drug crimes has become an increasingly frequent tactic,” she wrote.

In 2014, Ruslan Kutaev, a politician and activist, was sentenced to four years in prison on heroin possession charges after disobeying Mr. Kadyrov’s orders not to hold a conference marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Chechen and Ingush people under the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. He was released late last year.

Zhalaudi Geriev, a journalist with the Caucasian Knot news website, which is critical of Mr. Kadyrov, was sentenced to three years in prison on marijuana possession charges in 2016.

Human Rights Watch said that both men were tortured in police custody.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has also come under fire from Russia’s federal authorities. In 2014, it was placed on an official registry of “foreign agents” after it was accused of receiving funds from abroad and engaging in political activity.

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