TURKMENISTAN: Rights Group Reiterates Call for Release of Activists
Monday, July 24, 2006 10:55 AM

ANKARA, 20 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - An exiled human rights group has reiterated its call for the immediate release of three prisoners, including members of its own staff, held for more than a month in Turkmenistan.

Amankurban Amanklychev was detained on 16 June and Ogulsapar Muradova and Sapardurdy Khajiev on 18 June, according to Human Rights Watch. They were arrested on charges of trying to destabilise the energy-rich nation.

Tajigul Begmedova, head of the Bulgarian-based Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation (THF), said the international community had to put more pressure on the Turkmen government to release them.
"The main motive behind their detention is a clampdown on any dissent in the country. What better way to demonstrate that than by arresting human rights activists and a journalist?" he said.
"All charges against them were proven groundless and unjustifiable the day they were arrested."

The trio were associated with THF, which reports on human rights conditions in the country, while Muradova was also a journalist for the Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
Begmedova’s comments came two days after a coalition of human rights groups sent an open letter to Saparmurat Niyazov, the Turkmen president, calling on his government to release the activists.

The letter, signed by nine groups including Amnesty International, HRW, the International Helsinki Federation (IHF) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said it believed the trio were at risk of torture.

"The accusations against them are groundless and politically motivated to stifle and discredit peaceful dissent. We urge you to ensure their unconditional and immediate release," the letter read.

The letter alleged that the detainees had been mistreated in custody, with drugs administered to Amanklychev and Muradova to get them to confess to "subversive activities".

"As a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Turkmenistan is obligated to ensure that no one is subjected to torture or other ill-treatment. The detainees' continued incommunicado detention heightens our fear for their safety," the letter said.

Niyazov, the former Communist leader, has single-handedly ruled the hermit state following the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991. He has demonstrated little tolerance for dissent, with most journalists and opposition activists jailed or forced into exile.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

Published in: TURKMENISTAN: Rights Group Reiterates Call for Release of Activists,” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 20 July 2006. www.IRINnews.org. 24 July 2006.