Turkmenistan: Police brutality victims remain behind bars in Balkanabad

Illustration. Photo of Balkanabad police officer by Saparmamed Nepeskuliev

Govher (name changed), a jewelry trader in Balkanabad, was murdered in her apartment in the 200th district of the city in August 2017. After killing the young woman, the criminal looted the apartment, stealing all her money and jewelry.

Local police investigated the crime and detained two young men who had allegedly been spotted around the same neighborhood in the days of the murder. The two men were unaware that there had been a murder until the police told them, and therefore they tried to convince the authorities that they had nothing to do with it. The men said they did not know the victim and they certainly had not killed her. After hours of relentless interrogations and torture, however, they were forced to sign a confession.

What seemed the common ending of a gruesome story took a turn two months later, when a woman from Gumdag referred to the police that she had been approached to buy jewelry at half price.

“When I saw an offer so tempting, I couldn’t resist and bought the jewelry. Later, I gave some of it away because I sensed it could have been tied to criminal activity and therefore I came here,” the woman told the police.

She also reported the address and place of work of the man that sold her the cheap jewelry, which turned to be what had been taken from Govher’s apartment. The man was a resident of Balkanabad and worked at Dragon Oil. After he was arrested, he confessed to the crime and explained how he plotted to kill Govher.

The man said he only wanted to stun the woman, but he hit her on the head with a stool too violently and she died immediately. The man then took Govher’s jewelry and went home. The next day, he went to work and then approached a jewelry trader from Gumdag to sell off the loot at half price.

Balkanabad residents could now rest assured, it seemed, that the crime had been solved: the real killer had been arrested and the two accused could now be free. However, much to the surprise and disappointment of the locals, the two wrongly-accused young men are still in jail. Justice, after all, has not prevailed.

A former employee of the Ministry of Interior told ATN that both the police and the prosecutor’s office of the Balkanabad province are now covering up the mistake and the mistreatment of the prisoners to defend their honor. They are now accusing the men of other unsolved crimes, including theft of state property. The investigation on the charges of theft is still ongoing. The Balkanabad authorities also made sure that these two detainees will not be included in the list of prisoners that will receive the presidential pardon on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s independence.

No information has yet emerged about the woman from Gumdag who reported buying stolen jewelry and filed important information to solve the murder.

People in Balkanabad said they are shocked by the lawless and inhuman behavior of local police and hope that the two innocent prisoners will be released and the perpetrators of the torture against them will be imprisoned and tried.

ATN has obtained all personal data of those involved in the case.