Four Political Prisoners Released in Turkmenistan

Activists Serezha Babaniyazov and Dmitriy Medvedev have been released as part of the December amnesty in Turkmenistan, an informed source in the country’s Foreign Ministry told

Serezha Babaniyazov

Dmitriy Medvedev, 52, is a programmer from Mary region and creator of the ALLAKM online accounting system, which is used by many Turkmen state enterprises and private businesses. The authorities did not like him providing material help to the victims of the hurricane in Lebap and Mary regions when official sources were trying to cover up the natural disaster. They accused him of supposedly receiving the aid money “from the West.” It emerged in 2022 that Medvedev had been sentenced to four years’ detention on fabricated charges of fraud.

According to the authorities, Serezha Babaniyazov put up flyers in his native Balkanabat criticizing corruption. He sent a photograph of one of the flyers to an activist abroad. In February 2021 Babaniyazov was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, supposedly for spreading pornography. sources learned earlier that Dr Hursanay Ismatullaeva had also been released as part of the December amnesty. She was sentenced in 2021 to nine years’ imprisonment, allegedly for fraud but in fact for objecting to her illegal dismissal from her job and for having contact with independent journalists.

Lawyer Pygamberdi Allaberdiyev has been pardoned too. He was sentenced in 2020 to six years’ imprisonment allegedly for hooliganism, while in fact the authorities did not like his activity in opposition chatrooms.

The amnesty was declared to mark December 12 – Turkmenistan’s Day of Neutrality. There are regular prisoner releases in Turkmenistan to mark various holidays, but it is rare for political prisoners to be included in the amnesties. But in his first year as president Serdar Berdimuhamedov decided to free four people all in one go who had been sentenced for disagreeing with the authorities. This has not been publicized in the official media. That said, official lists of those amnestied have not been published for more than 15 years. The media solemnly report only the fact of the release of prisoners.

Many other prisoners remain in detention, however, including Nurgeldi Halykov, Murat Dushemov, Mansur Mingelov, and Murat Ovezov. The country has a whole industry dedicated to sending dissidents and the “uncooperative” to penitentiaries. None other than the deputy head of Turkmenistan’s National Security Ministry, Orazgeldi Meredov, fabricates the cases.