Turkmenistan: two surviving Human Rights Defenders finally released but others linger in jail

February 18, 2013

On 17 February 2013 Human Rights Watch announced that two human rights defenders were released in Turkmenistan after serving their sentence: Sapardurdy Khajiev and Annakurban Amanklychev  (© Turkmen Helsinki foundation)
The Turkmen authorities have long used the judicial system and long-term imprisonment to suppress civic activism and settle political scores. So while we celebrate Amanklychev and Khajiev’s long overdue freedom, the pressing question remains, how many others still languish behind bars on wrongful charges? said Rachel Denber of HRW.

The authorities arrested Khajiev, Amanklychev, and Khajiev’s sister, Ogulsapar Muradova, in June 2006 on the eve of a European Parliament visit to Turkmenistan. They were associated with the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation, a Turkmen human rights group in exile, and just before their arrest they had helped a French journalist with a documentary film about the dire state of human rights in Turkmenistan. Muradova was sentenced to six years in prison, and Amanklychev and Khajiev to seven years each; Muradova died in highly suspicious circumstances in custody in September 2006. No meaningful investigation was conducted into her death and no one was held to account.

In November 2010, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found the imprisonment of Amanklychev and Khajiev unlawful and urged their immediate release. However the Turkmen government refused to acknowledge their imprisonment as wrongful or to commute their sentences.

Khajiev and Amanklychev’s release should prompt Turkmenistan’s international partners to reinvigorate their calls on the government to end, once and for all, the misuse of the judicial system for political purposes in violation of international human rights law, Human Rights Watch said.

The Turkmen authorities have long used the judicial system and long-term imprisonment to suppress civic activism and settle political scores,” Denber said. “So while we celebrate Amanklychev and Khajiev’s long overdue freedom, the pressing question remains, how many others still languish behind bars on wrongful charges?”

 

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