Contact: Ruslan Myatiev
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
URGENT: CIVIL ACTIVIST ARRESTED IN TURKMENISTAN
Amsterdam, July 29, 2015 – Yesterday, on July 28, Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) learned of the arrest three weeks earlier of Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, a civil activist and a freelance correspondent for Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (Turkmen service) and ATN.
He has collaborated with ATN since the spring of 2015, sending video and photo evidence of the harsh reality he could not ignore.
According to information obtained by ATN, Balkanabad resident Nepeskuliev was arrested on July 7 in the city of Turkmenbashi, while on his way home from Avaza, where he had been collecting facts and taking photos for his news reports. A few hours before his train departed, Nepeskuliev contacted his family and said that he would arrive at Balkanabad at 4 p.m., and would use the remaining time before his return jorney to visit the beach. At that point, the connection was lost, and his phone was off. He never arrived home – not on that day, not the day after. ATN knows that Nepeskuliev was staying at Khazar Hotel near Turkmenbashi’s train station.
Several days later, his family filed a missing person report with the Balkanabad police. The police surmised that he could have drowned in the sea, and phoned the morgue in Turkmenbashi, but Nepeskuliev was not there.
After a long search, the family managed to find out that he was alive, and was being held in a jail in the nearby village of Akdash. They were told that Nepeskuliev was arrested for possession of pills «containing narcotic substances» [allegedly Tramadol] and that «he will soon be tried and imprisoned». The family attempted to see him in Akdash, but were denied a visit. ATN fears that Nepeskuliev could have been tortured. Furthermore, he does not have a lawyer to represent him.
Previously, Nepeskuliev had already been on the radar of the law enforcement agencies. About two years earlier, during the visit of the country’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to the Balkan Province, Nepeskuliev took to the streets with a poster in an attempt to draw the President’s attention to the fact of his wrongful dismissal from “Damac” company, where he had worked as a kitchen hand.
For several years before that, he had unsuccessfully tried to challenge his unlawful dismissal by appealing to various government agencies (ATN has copies of responses he received from the Prosecutor’s Office of Balkan Province, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court of Turkmenistan).
As a result of his one-man protest action, Nepeskuliev was forcibly confined to a mental institution, where he was given strong psychotropic drugs. By his own admission, after his release from the hospital, he could not recall anything of what had happened to him.
Nepeskuliev used to have a citizenship of the Russian Federation, but was stripped of it for unknown reasons. He also is not and has never been a citizen of Turkmenistan, even though he still resides with his family in Balkanabad at District 211, house 30, apartment 23. Nepeskuliev is effectively a person without any citizenship, who has no one to protect him.
After being unemployed for many years due to the fact that no one would hire him, he has recently begun freelance work for the Turkmen Service of Radio Liberty. The Service management has been informed of Nepeskuliev’s arrest. ATN has also notified its contacts in the international human rights organizations and governments of a number of Western countries of his arrest.
ATN is convinced that the pills were deliberately planted on him: he didn’t even smoke cigarettes, and drug use or distribution were out of the question. There is a suspicion that Nepeskuliev was under surveillance, and the arrest had been planned well in advance. This is indirectly supported by the fact that his home phone had been continuously tapped for years.
Judicial practice in Turkmenistan shows that a sentence in a criminal case, once passed, is virtually unchallengeable. Drug-related charges, under which Nepeskuliev could be convicted, are never included in an amnesty or a pardon decree.
ATN appeals to international organizations and governments of democratic countries to speak out in defense of Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, and to prevent the impending trial on trumped up charges, a trial for his active civil position.
For this press-release in Russian please click here