Posted 2006/8/3

Fears for three Turkmen human rights defenders held incommunicado

Three Turkmen human rights defenders arrested on charges of “illegal weapons possession” have been held in prison without contact with lawyers or family members for over a month.

Front Line believes that the charges against Annakurban Amanklychev, Ogulsapar Muradova and Sapadurdy Khajiyev are fabricated because of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights.

All three human rights defenders are members of the Bulgarian based NGO, the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation (THF) and Ogulsapar Muradova also works as a journalist for the American-funded Radio Liberty.

Front Line has received reports that the three have been ill treated in detention and Amanklychev and Muradova were forcibly administered psychotropic drugs in order to extract confessions.

Amanklychev was arrested on 16 June but was not charged until 12 July, although according to Turkmen law a person can be only held without charge for up to three days. Amanklychev was helping a French television production company make a documentary about the rapidly deteriorating health and education systems in Turkmenistan and the Turkmen president for life Saparmurat Niyazov’s increasingly bizarre cult of personality.

There is no freedom of expression in Turkmenistan and all media is state controlled – According to the 2005 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, Turkmenistan had the 3rd worst press freedom conditions in the world. Front Line believes that the arrest of Amanklychev was politically motivated and in reprisal for assisting in the making of the documentary.

Ogulsapar Muradova and Sapadurdy Khajiyev were arrested and detained two days later on 18 June and were also not charged until 12 July.

Turkmenistan is one of the most brutal regimes in the world. Saparmurat Niyazov has ruled the ex-soviet state for over 20 years and tolerates no dissent. His presidential degrees become increasingly peculiar: In 2005 he closed all hospitals and libraries outside the capital Ashgabat. He also reportedly renamed bread after his mother and banned young men from having beards or long hair.

Front Line has called on the Turkmen authorities to immediately release Annakurban Amanklychev, Ogulsapar Muradova and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev, to cease persecuting human rights defenders in Turkmenistan and to take immediate measures to guarantee the security of all human rights defenders in Turkmenistan