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Journalist jailed in Russia’s Chechnya region

September 7, 2016

A journalist in Russia’s Chechnya region has been jailed for three years on drugs charges, colleagues said Wednesday, in a case slammed as fabricated ahead of upcoming elections.

Zhalaudi Geriev — a contributor to the Kavkazsky Uzel website known for his reporting on human rights in the tightly-controlled region run by strongman Ramzan Kadyrov — was sentenced on Monday for alleged marijuana possession.

“This case has clearly been totally fabricated,” the website’s chief editor Grigory Shvedov told AFP.

“He never took or transported drugs.”

Geriev was arrested on April 16 by armed men who dragged him off a bus and questioned him in a forest, Human Rights Watch said. He is now appealing the verdict.

“We have no doubt that Geriev is being punished for his work as a journalist and hope that justice will prevail on appeal,” said Tanya Lokshina, Russia programme director at Human Rights Watch.

Kremlin-loyal Kadyrov has run the volatile region — where Moscow fought two brutal separatist conflicts — with an iron fist for almost a decade and is up for election next month.

Human Rights Watch said that authorities in the region are “tyrannising critics” ahead of the nationwide and local polls on September 18, which will be the first time Kadyrov faces a popular vote on his rule.

The strongman — who at one stage battled the Russian army as a rebel fighter — is accused of running Chechnya as his personal fiefdom, with wide use of kidnapping and torture and little oversight from Moscow.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.