State police and security forces of Turkmenistan have harassed Hekim Hajiev, a pensioner who worked as a maintenance operator at state-owned Turkmennebit oil company in Balkanabad, who penned two open letters to Turkmenistan’s president and several international human rights organizations in 2016. The letters were published by Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) on August 8 and October 17, 2016.
ATN received information about the recent harassment from a local source, a former law enforcement official in the Balkan region. ATN has not received information directly from Hajiev for several months. Hajiev cannot access the internet or use his phone, because his connections are blocked by the local operator, the source said. His wife and children are constantly subjected to pressure, humiliation and insults.
The ATN source formerly affiliated with law enforcement said that the police and the security apparatus are constantly watching and provoking Hajiev.
“They won’t forgive Hajiev’s public outreach, through the ATN website, with his two open letters to the president and international human rights organizations,” the source said.
In his open letters, Hajiev denounced crimes and violations of the labor code at the department of maintenance at Turkmennebit. Hajiev detailed cases of embezzlement of state property, physical assault and persecution of company employees by the management. Hajiev wrote the letters as the last resort, after having appealed, in vain, to the authorities at Turkmenneft, the General-Prosecutor’s Office and the High Court, about the issues at his workplace.
“After these letters appeared on the website, officials from the police and the security service turned Hajiev’s life into hell, which even made him ill,” the source said.
On May 21, several policemen took Hajiev from his home – without a warrant – and brought him to the station in the city. Hajiev’s detention was not recorded on the police register.
Several officers took turns to interrogate Hajiev, threatening him and forcing him to confess in writing that he had written and given all critical content on the Balkan province published by ATN and the Turkmen service RFE/RL.
For hours, police officers yelled at a sick man in a closed room so loudly that the noise could be heard even from next offices. They told Hajiev that they would make his and his relatives’ lives unbearable if he failed to sign a confession.
The police in Turkmenistan are an untouchable caste above the people. The population knows how risky it is to get involved with them. Once one falls into their hands, they can do whatever they want: they can plant drugs, trump up a criminal case, and put one in prison for a long time.
The source said Hajiev was later sent home, but was banned from connecting to the web for fear he would “disgrace the country” again.
ATN could not manage to contact Hajiev directly and all his family members, intimidated, refused to talk to ATN.