URGENT ACTION (6 August 2015)
FREELANCE JOURNALIST’S WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN
Freelance journalist Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, whose current whereabouts are unknown, is believed to have been held incommunicado by Turkmenistani authorities for a month. His likely arrest and detention may be linked to his work as a freelance journalist. He is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment and an unfair trial.
Saparmamed Nepeskuliev went missing on 7 July in the city of Turkmenbashi, as he was returning to the city of Balkanabad, where he lives. He had been on a trip to gather information and photographs for his work as a freelance journalist for Alternative News Turkmenistan (ATN) and Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty’s Turkmen Service. Both media outlets are banned in Turkmenistan. Saparmamed Nepeskuliev had called his family to say that he would be returning to Balkanabad at 4pm on 7 July, but he never arrived.
Saparmamed Nepeskuliev’s family reportedly later learned that he had been detained by police for possession of pills containing narcotic substances (thought to be the prescription drug Tramadol) and was being held in the village of Akdash. His family attempted to visit him in detention but was denied a visit. He has not been given access to a lawyer and his current whereabouts are unknown. ATN and Radio Free Europe have not been able to speak to Saparmamed Nepeskuliev and have not had any contact with his family since 30 July. They believe the family may have been threatened by the security officials into not speaking about the situation. Incommunicado detention, without access to a lawyer and to the family, increases the risk of torture and other ill treatment. Saparmamed Nepeskuliev is also at risk of an unfair trial.
Saparmamed Nepeskuliev is likely to have been targeted for his activities as a journalist and civil society activist. Since starting work for Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty’s Turkmen Service as a photojournalist earlier this year, Saparmamed Nepeskuliev had filed reports drawing attention to the contrast between poor living conditions for ordinary Turkmenistani citizens and luxury apartment developments. Colleagues at ATN, with whom he also started working earlier this year, believe that he had been under surveillance by the authorities for some time.
Please write immediately in Turkmen, Russian or English or your own language:
- Urging the authorities to immediately establish or reveal Saparmamed Nepeskuliev’s whereabouts to his family, and ensure his safety, including ensuring that he is not subjected to torture and other ill treatment;
- Calling on them to ensure that should Saparmamed Nepeskuliev be in their custody, he is given immediate access to a lawyer of his choice, and is charged with a recognizable criminal offense or otherwise immediately released.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 17 SEPTEMBER 2015 TO:
President of Turkmenistan: Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov
Fax: 011 993 12 93 5112 (please continue to try between 10-1500 GMT)
Salutation: Dear President
Prosecutor General: Amanmyrat Hallyev
ul. Seidi 4
744000 g. Ashgabat
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor General
And copies to:
Minister of Foreign Affairs Rashid Meredov
Archabil av. 108
Also send copies to:
Ambassador Meret Bairamovich Orazow, Embassy of Turkmenistan
2207 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 1 202 588 1500 I Fax: 1 202 280 1003 I E-mail: email@example.com
Freedom of expression and association Turkmenistan is a country closed to independent human rights monitors, while Turkmenistani human rights activists and journalists, both within the country and in exile, face consistent pressure from the Turkmenistani authorities. No genuinely independent media exist within the country, and de facto censorship is extensive. People are barred from subscribing to foreign media outlets and access to the internet is monitored and restricted. Social networking websites are frequently blocked. Independent journalists and human rights defenders continue to suffer harassment by the authorities.
Torture and other ill-treatment
In spite of the government’s tight control of information, credible reports of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials against people suspected of criminal offenses have continued. Torture methods included pulling of the genitals with pliers, electric shocks, and beatings with chair legs and plastic bottles filled with water. Reports on ill-treatment in prisons included a prisoner being forced to swallow pills and having threats made against his family; incidents of forced rape between prisoners; and shackling of prisoners serving life sentences.