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The UN Working group on Arbitrary Detention defined “arbitrary” the arrest of 18 citizens of Turkmenistan for their alleged connection to the Hizmet movement headed by Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen.
The official charge against them was “incitement of social, national, ethnic, racial or religious hostility” and “organization of or participation in a criminal organization.» The trial was held behind closed doors and only four lawyers were allowed in. In total, the accused received sentences for 333 years of imprisonment.
The Working Group noted that the conditions of detention violated several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Turkmen authorities failed to answer the UN’s requests for clarification. The Working Group concluded that the arrests of these individuals were carried out in violation of their right to exercise freedom of association.
The members of the UN Working Group noted that the court did not mention crimes in its verdict, but only listed a short biography of each of the accused, matching them with a prison sentence. In addition, the two-hour trial was carried out within the premises of the AH-D/1 prison in the village of Yashlyk. Lawyers, who were invited only formally, could not present arguments in defense of their clients.
The Working Group also qualified as disproportionate the prison terms assigned by the court:
In addition, every convict had been subjected to torture and beatings during the investigation stage, several among the accused reported broken bones. Some of them complained saying they were kept naked in dark cells, for long periods.
The opinion was rendered at the 80th session of the Working Group in November 2017. The document is available in English.
The Working Group believes that all 18 inmates should be immediately released and given compensation or other reparation in accordance with international law.
A list of the names and biographies of the convicted individuals is provided below:
Mr. Resulberdy Atageldiyev was born in 1979 and is a Turkmen national. He was the director of a private company and resided in Ashgabat. He was arrested on 11 October 2016.
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