Turkmenistan: Civic Activist Nepeskuliev’s Fate Remains Unknown
Amsterdam, August 20 – While thanks to pressure from international organizations that spoke out in defense of Saparmamed Nepeskuliev and called for his release, the security services restored the telephone communication of his mother Raisa, his family is still in the dark on whether Nepeskuliev has an attorney, what the exact charges he faces are, and when the trial is scheduled. There has been no official response to any of these questions.
Saparmamed Nepeskuliev (born February 5, 1978 in Balkanabad, Turkmenistan) is a civic activist and freelance correspondent for Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Turkmen service). He was arrested on July 7, 2015 in Turkmenbashi where he was on a reporting assignment. The family was told that that he was arrested for alleged possession of Tramadol pills that «contain narcotic substances». Nepeskuliev is a stateless person.
PRESSURE ON FAMILY AND DEFAMATION CAMPAIGN AGAINST CIVIC ACTIVIST
On August 14, ANT was finally able to get in touch with Nepeskuliev’s mother. The first question ATN asked was why she had been unreachable for 18 days, but she refused to discuss her reasons, which is further evidence of the pressure the family is under.
ATN’s doubts that we talked to the actual sister of Saparmamed on July 5 and 6 have been confirmed: the phone number we dialed used to belong to his sister Lilia, but she had changed it long time ago. On July 6 the alleged «sister» said that her mother was unable to answer the phone, because she «has been in intensive care since the morning, with high blood pressure, or a heart attack». This turned out to be a lie: Raisa had not spent a single day in the hospital.
This can only mean that ANT talked to a stool-pigeon, whose purpose was to deliberately discredit the civic activist. Using such shams and agents provocateurs is a time-tested method of the Turkmen security services.
On July 29 a website that is believed to be administered by the Turkmen security services, attempted to discredit Nepeskuliev by claiming that he was systematically beating up his sister and mother. This was completely rejected by Nepeskuliev’s mother when ATN spoke with her. The audio recording of that phone conversation was published on August 9.
ATN has also disproved that Nepeskuliev was allegedly fired from Damac firm, where he used to work, for systematic theft of food supplies. This information was spread by the same website believed to be administered by the Turkmen security services. On July 30 ATN published an official letter written by the firm’s leadership to the Prosecutor’s Office of Balkan Province. The letter does not mention theft of food among the reasons for Nepeskuliev’s dismissal.
It is also surprising that the 37-year-old Nepeskuliev was inexplicably found in possession of Tramadol pills precisely at the moment when he was suspected of collaboration with foreign media, while his mother insists that he had never used any drugs in his life.
Meanwhile, there has been another development: a few days back, a young man who did not identify himself came to Nepeskuliev’s family and said that Nepeskuliev had been transferred from the jail in the village of Akdash to a temporary detention facility in Balkanabad. Nepeskuliev’s sister, the real one this time, immediately tried to see her brother, but was once again denied a visit without further explanation. There has been no official notice that Nepeskuliev is now in fact in the detention center of Balkanabad, but the guards there did accept a food parcel for him. Another attempt to see him in Balkanabad on Saturday, August 15th, was also to no avail.
BREACH OF LAW
The family is still in the dark on whether Nepeskuliev has an attorney, what his exact charges are, and when the trial is scheduled. There has been no official response to any of these questions. In the case of Nepeskuliev, Turkmenistan is violating its own norms of criminal procedures code, in particular:
Article 24, — a person who is suspected, accused, convicted or acquitted of a crime has a right to defense;
Article 79, Paragraph 5, Part 9 – a suspect has a right to inform his or her family, close relatives or employer about his/her arrest and whereabouts; and
if Nepeskuliev is already in the status of the accused, then:
Article 80, Paragraph 2 – a person has a right to inform his or her family members, close relatives or an employer of the place of detention;
Article 141, Paragraph 1 – the prosecuting authority must immediately (or no later than within twenty-four hours) notify the family or close relatives that the person suspected of committing a crime has been detained, and of the place of detention.
We once again call on all international organizations and governments of democratic states to continue putting pressure on the Turkmen authorities. On our part, on Monday, August 16, we filed an official petition regarding the arbitrary arrest with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. We also contacted the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York and notified them of Nepeskuliev’s case.
We cannot allow Turkmenistan – a democratic country, according to the country’s constitution, and a full-fledged member of the international community – to remain the place where security services commit unlawful acts against citizens, and especially civic activists and journalists. Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, who has suffered solely for his views and for exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression, must be released!
The following organizations expressed concern about Nepeskuliev’s case and/or demanded his immediate release:
Amnesty International — http://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/uaa17415_0.pdf
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) — https://cpj.org/2015/07/freelance-reporter-arrested-in-turkmenistan.php
Human Rights Watch — http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/30/turkmenistan-free-rights-activist-immediately
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — http://www.osce.org/fom/176726
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) — http://www.rferl.org/content/turkmen-journalist-missing/27181556.html
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) — http://en.rsf.org/turkmenistan-freelance-journalist-held-31-07-2015,48169.html
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