Diplomats to visit Ovadan-Depe prison ahead of Asian Games

AH-T/2 prison facility (Ovadan-Depe)

Turkmen authorities may let foreign diplomats visit the Ovadan-Depe prison over the next three months, an ANT source at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkmenistan reported. The visit will be organized in an effort to “improve the image of the country for the international community” on the eve of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.

The authorities have not yet set exact dates for the visit and have not disclosed the list of diplomats that will be allowed into the prison. Other sources, including ones within the diplomatic ranks, could not confirm the news.

According to one official at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, prison personnel is already being trained ahead of the visit: they have been told where and how to stand, how to behave, what they can and cannot say. In addition, various ministries and departments, chiefly the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, send commissions to Ovadan-Depe almost every day. Officials routinely check the condition of the cells and bathrooms, inspect the dining room and food warehouse, and inquire with prisoners regarding complaints or health issues.

The diplomatic visit will be limited to certain sections of the prison. The delegates will certainly not be allowed to see prisoners convicted in the November 25 trial or those convicted for religious reasons. The diplomats are not expected to talk to inmates, the source said.

The international community has repeatedly asked, without success, that the International Red Cross be allowed into the Ovadan-Depe prison. Since 2014, Turkmen authorities have granted outsiders admission to prisons only three times. Diplomats and representatives of international organizations have been allowed twice into the female camp in Dashoguz and once into the camp for minors in Bayramaly.