MOSCOW — The lawyer for a human rights activist jailed in Chechnya is asking for his case to be tried in a different Russian region because of pressure from Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.

Oyub Titiev, the head of a Chechnya branch of the respected human rights group Memorial, has been behind bars since his January arrest on drug charges. Titiev denies the charges. The case is widely seen as punishment for Titiev's work exposing abuses in Chechnya.

Titiev's lawyer, Ilya Novikov, told reporters in the Chechen capital Grozny on Tuesday that local courts cannot be independent following Kadyrov's highly negative statements about his client. Novikov has asked Chechnya's Supreme Court to move the case to a different Russian province.

Western nations and international human rights groups have campaigned in Titiev's defense.