Judge turns blind eye on police brutality in Turkmenistan

Outside courthouse in Balkanabad

A court in Balkanabad province effectively endorsed police brutality after the sentencing of innocent detainees falsely accused of drug-related crimes.

In September, ATN reported that two detainees died after police tortured them to extract confessions in the township of Etrek (south-west Turkmenistan). The source, a former employee of the local police department, told ATN of the judicial consequences of the event.

The police officers who tortured them and ultimately killed two were not accused or charged. Instead, on November 30, a court in Balkanabad sentenced five people for drug-related crimes. Around 20 people were originally detained during the police raids over the summer.

“Only five of them were taken to court. The others somehow managed to go free,” the source told ATN. “Interestingly, for two of the five defendants, the charges have not been proved either during the investigation or at the court hearings.”

The two defendants (ATN has their names) were falsely accused by the other three after they had suffered torture, blackmail and deception. The three defendants were lured into believing that, by accusing the other two, they would have obtained a reduced sentence.

The defendants were in possession of 300 grams of drugs, according to documents of the investigation. Aside from the false testimony accusing them, no other evidence was presented against the two innocent defendants. Investigators failed to find traces of drugs on them, on their homes and cars, or even in their blood.

Relatives of the two defendants hoped that the judge would notice the absence of evidence and set the innocent detainees free. The judge, however, turned a blind eye on the facts. During a testimony, one defendant said he was constantly beaten and cross-chained with handcuffs (with his left hand tied to his right ankle and his right hand tied to his left ankle) during the preliminary police interrogations. In order to survive, he ultimately chose to surrender and plead guilty.

The prosecutor then turned to him and asked: “If you were tortured like you claim, why did you plead guilty?” The defendant replied: “If you had suffered the same violence as I have, you would have signed anything [to stop it].”

The trial continued throughout the day, although the hearings only lasted about one and a half hours. In the end, four were found guilty of drug-related crimes and sentenced to 15 years in prison, while the fifth, who had revealed the torture he had suffered at the Etrek police department, was sentenced to 17 years. After the hearings, the prosecutor turned to him and said: “Two extra years for you, blabbermouth.”

The court hearings were closed to the public. Only five family members for each defendant were admitted inside.