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President urged to extend amnesty for 11 political prisoners to include journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has written to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov proposing that an amnesty for 11 political prisoners that was announced on 9 August 2007 should be extended to include imprisoned journalists and all other prisoners of conscience.

20 August 2007

President urged to extend amnesty for 11 political prisoners to include journalists

SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris

"Dear Mr. President,

We would like to ask you to extend this amnesty and to release all the journalists, prisoners of conscience, human rights activists and press freedom activists currently held in Turkmenistan.

We would like to draw your attention to three cases in particular.

Annakurban Amanklychev, Sapardourdy Khajiyev and Ogulsapar Muradova - journalists and human rights activists - were convicted on 25 August 2006 of helping a foreign journalist make a documentary about Turkmenistan for French public television. Amanklychev and Khajiyev received seven-year prison sentences. Muradova got six years. There is no news of Amanklychev and Khajiyev and we are very concerned about their state of health. You are of course aware, Mr. President, of the harsh conditions in which "special" prisoners are held.

Muradova, who was Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Turkmenistan correspondent as well as a human rights activist, was arrested on 18 June 2006. She died violently in September in the prison where she was serving her sentence. Everything suggests that this woman, aged 58 and the mother of three, was beaten to death. I urge your, Mr. President, to order an investigation into the circumstance of her tragic death, which is a serious stain on Turkmenistan's image.

The relatives of these three journalists and human rights activists are meanwhile being subjected to harassment simply because of a family member's arrest and conviction. I appeal to you to make a benevolent gesture and to allow them to try to live their lives in peace despite the ordeal of separation from a loved-one through imprisonment or death.

I have taken note of your many statements and decisions since your election in February, and I keenly wish that you would begin a policy of liberalisation, with concrete measures, even limited ones, that would give the country, including its journalists, some hope.

I thank you in advance for giving this matter your careful consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert Ménard
Secretary-General"

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