Independent Journalists Under Pressure in Turkmenistan
On March 23 a Turkmen civic activist and freelance reporter for Alternative Turkmenistan News and Radio Azatlyk (Radio Liberty), Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, left Turkmenistan.
In July 2015 he was arrested in Turkmenbashi where he was on assignment for ATN, gathering material for future publications. On August 31 the reporter was sentenced to three years for alleged possession of Tramadol, a banned medicine in Turkmenistan.
At that time international human rights organizations stood up for Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, and in December 2015 a UN working group recognized his arrest and imprisonment as arbitrary. There were no details about the criminal case against against the activist, nor any information about him from the place of detention.
In February 2016 we managed to speak to Saparmamed Nepeskuliev’s cellmate – Kazakh citizen Erik Supushev. They had spent several months in the same cell in the pre-trial detention center in Akdash. He said the activist’s trial had been a pure formality and had been held in camera. There was no discussion of the circumstances of the case, and no defence lawyer, despite the legal requirement for one. The judge just walked in, read the sentence and left.
Moreover, during the investigation Saparmamed Nespekuliev declared a hunger strike, Erik Supushev said, but the warders just shrugged, “All the better for us. He’ll kick the bucket sooner.”
Saparmamed Nepeskuliev was released on May 19, 2018, having served his full sentence. In the few months since then he has managed to restore his Russian citizenship and get a passport. On March 21 he received an exit visa and on the morning of the 23rd left for Istanbul on a one-way ticket.
The activist intends to regain his health first of all, which suffered during his time in prison. As for what the future holds, time will tell.
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