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Turkmenistan7 July 2008

RFE contributor freed from notorious psychiatric hospital after being held for two weeks

Radio Free Europe contributor Sazak Durdymuradov has been released from the psychiatric hospital to which he was confined against his will after being arrested by secret police on 20 June and tortured.

“We are relieved to learn that Durdymuradov is back at home with his family, which means the mistreatment to which he was being subjected has ended,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is time the authorities realised that the use of such barbaric methods is completely unacceptable and should be abandoned at once.”

A history teacher who has been contributing to RFE for several months, Durdymuradov was able to return to his home in Baharden (200 km west of the capital) on 4 July, two weeks after he was arrested there by members of the MNB secret police. His return was confirmed by his family, who thanked all those who spoke out on his behalf.

Durdymuradov was tortured. He was badly beaten and was given electric shocks in an attempt to make him sign a pledge to stop working for RFE. He was then taken to Boinuzin, a psychiatric hospital 700 km east of Ashgabad where dissidents are imprisoned. Former Boinuzin inmates have called it the “Turkmen gulag” and “hell on earth.”

Durdymuradov’s arrest took place as a European Union delegation and the Turkmen government were holding talks in Ashgabad about human rights. Recent weeks have seen an increase in government harassment of its critics and independent journalists.

Turkmenistan was ranked 167th out of 169 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index. President Gurbanguli Berdymukhammedov is on the organisation’s list of Press Freedom Predators and its list of Internet Enemies.


1st July 2008

Radio Free Europe contributor forcibly confined in psychiatric hospital

(JPEG) Reporters Without Borders has learned that Radio Free Europe contributor Sazak Durdymuradov(photo) is being held against his will in a psychiatric hospital in the eastern region of Lebap that is notorious for holding dissidents. He was examined by 10 doctors who diagnosed “mental instability.” He was reportedly given electric shocks after his arrest on 20 June in an attempt to make him sign a pledge to stop working for RFE.

“We call on the Turkmen authorities to free Durdymuradov at once,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Punitive hospitalisation and torture are totally unacceptable. In the light of these events, we are all the more shocked that, after holding talks with Turkmenistan about human rights, the European Union said it was optimistic about the way the situation was evolving.”

The EU and Turkmenistan began a dialogue on human rights in Ashgabad on 24 June, at a time when the police are believed to have been torturing Durdymuradov. Riina Kionka, EU high representative Javier Solana’s personal representative for human rights, told RFE there had been no EU reaction to the Durdymuradov case because it took place while the EU delegation was in Ashgabad and they only learned about it on their return.

Independent journalists were excluded from the Ashgabad talks. Only government-controlled news media were invited.

Turkmenistan was ranked 167th out of 169 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index. President Gurbanguli Berdymukhammedov is on the organisation’s list of Press Freedom Predators and its list of Internet Enemies.

Read the press release "Radio Free Europe contributor arrested and tortured while government promises EU to improve human rights"

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Sazak Durdymuradov’s interview on Radio Free Europe

Sazak Durdymuradov wrote an article about ways to improve Turkmenistan’s education system for Mugallymlar Gazeti, a local state-controlled "Teachers’ Newspaper", but the editor declined to print it. When Durdymuradov was a guest on the "Time and Us" talk show on RFE/RL’s Turkmen service last month, he said in reference to free speech in Turkmenistan:

"I believe there would be reactions to my article from teachers if there were freedom of speech. The response I got from Mugallymlar Gazeti - Teachers Newspaper - proves it. If there is no need to publish the thoughts of students or teachers, then I think there is no need to offer other examples of the lack of freedom of speech."




 
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