Turkmenistan: Who Fabricates Cases Against Dissidents?

One and the same senior figure in Turkmenistan’s special services has been involved in the fabrication of at least seven criminal cases against political prisoners who are now serving their sentences. He is the deputy head of Turkmenistan’s National Security Ministry, Orazgeldi Meredov.

Abdy-Shukur prison in Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan

Recently, turkmen.news asked readers connected to the National Security Ministry to share information about an “Agreement on technical support for special equipment.” Someone got in touch with us and proved his direct involvement with the ministry. Though he does not have information about the document, he did tell us who is behind the many “political” cases.

It emerged that Orazgeldi Meredov is responsible for the cases of four convicted “political” prisoners. They are:

  • Nurgeldi Halykov, given a four-year sentence for sending a photograph of a WHO mission to independent journalists. A case of fraud was fabricated against him. Orazgeldi Meredov openly gave Halykov a choice between the grave crime of “rape” and the lesser crime of “fraud.” They had already found a fake victim who was ready to write a complaint. Halykov was told that if he wanted to avoid this, he should confess to fraud. He was forced to agree. According to turkmen.news’ information, the same modus operandi was earlier used against at least one other political prisoner — Gaspar Matalaev. The source said that Meredov personally interrogated Halykov on the day of his arrest, July 13 2020, and on November 26 went to see him in colony LB-K/12.
  • Murat Ovezov posted on YouTube, and in particular recited a poem about the presence of coronavirus in Turkmenistan. He was sentenced to five years supposedly for fraud.
  • Serezha (this is his first name) Babaniyazov — it was initially reported that his written comments on YouTube were the reason for fabricated charges of spreading pornography. It has since emerged that Babaniyazov put up posters in Balkanabat criticizing corruption and sent a photograph of a poster to an activist abroad. Babaniyazov was identified and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
  • Murat Dushemov actively criticized on the Internet the cover-up of the coronavirus pandemic in Turkmenistan. He received a four-year sentence, supposedly for extortion and moderately severe deliberate bodily harm.

Moreover, according to the source, it was Meredov who fabricated the cases of the three new political prisoners that recently came to turkmen.news’ attention: Allanazar Korhanov, Annamurat Ashurov, and Dmitriy Medvedev. Their real “guilt” lies respectively in sending a video to the opposition DVT movement, in collaborating with Radio Azatlyk (the radio station does not confirm official collaboration), and in helping victims of the 2020 hurricane, a natural disaster that was covered up by the authorities.

Through the efforts of the deputy head of the National Security Ministry both Medvedev and Ashurov received four-year sentences for fraud, while Korhanov received the same term on charges of causing moderately severe bodily harm. The source said that Meredov not only led the work of subordinates who fabricated the cases, but also personally interrogated the political prisoners.

It’s not difficult to spot that more than half of the political prisoners were convicted of supposed fraud. This prompts the question: why does the deputy head of the agency responsible for national security take on cases under such a routine article of the criminal code? Besides, there is not even an unsettled claim for damages in Halykov’s case. Other prisoners convicted under this article of the criminal code who still have outstanding claims against them are released during amnesties, sources say, but not Halykov.

None of the aforementioned people (and no political prisoners at all) featured on the list of 514 prisoners pardoned to mark Qadr Night (the Night of Power) this year. This is the first mass amnesty conducted by Serdar Berdimuhamedov since he took over the presidency in March 2022. The new head of state clearly demonstrated that, like his father Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov before him, he intends “to show mercy” primarily to people convicted of more or less real crimes. The president has no intention of undermining the laborious work of Meredov and his colleagues and actually releasing political prisoners.

Turkmen.news considers all the aforementioned individuals to be political prisoners — people unlawfully deprived of their freedom not for real crimes, but for their views and actions in some way going against the interests of the country’s authoritarian leadership. Turkmenistan’s authorities abuse their position, arbitrarily sending to penal colonies people who according to the law should not spend even a single day there. We call for the immediate release of these citizens!