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Turkmenistan25 August 2006

Two journalists get long jail terms in human rights crackdown

Reporters Without Borders said it was “disgusted” by the “absurd, unjust and disgraceful” six and seven-year prison sentences imposed today on two Turkmen journalists working for foreign media.

It condemned the decision of the court in Ashgabat as orchestrated by “President-for-Life” Separmurad Nyazov as part of a secret prosecution and a trial that lasted only two hours without any independent observers present.

“Nyazov himself decides what prison sentences are to be handed down in a country where press freedom does not exist under a regime that is one of the most brutal in the world towards the media,” it said.

Ogulsapar Muradova, local correpsondent for the US-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, and Annakurban Amanklychev, who works with a French production company, Galaxie-Presse, were given six and seven-year jail sentences for “illegally possessing ammunition,” along with a fellow human rights activist, Sapardurdy Khajiev, who got seven years for the same offence (punishable under article 287-2 of the criminal code). All intend to appeal against the convictions.

The three are activists of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and were arrested between 16 and 18 June.

President Nyazov, who calls himself the “Turkmenbashi” (“Father of All Turkmens”), is on the Reporters Without Borders international list of 35 “predators of press freedom.”

Turkmenistan is in 165th place (third from the bottom) of the Reporters Without Borders 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index. Only Eritrea and North Korea have a worse record.

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