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Turkmenistan
14.02.03
Urgent Interventions

Turkmenistan: unfair trial, threats, a disappearance, incommunicado detention and risk of torture in the Boris Shikhmuradov case

Case TKM 140203
Incommunicado detention / Threats / Torture / Fair trial

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Turkmenistan.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan (HRCA) and the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR), both members of the network, of the sentencing to life imprisonment following an unfair trial of ex-Vice Prime Minister of Turkmenistan, now opposition leader Boris Shikhmuradov, and the alleged threats, disappearance, incommunicado detention and risk of torture of members of his family in Turkmenistan.

According to the information received, after a three-day incommunicado detention period, the ex-Vice Prime Minister of Turkmenistan, Boris Shikhmuradov, admitted to having organised the attempted assassination of President Saparmurad Niazov. During the interrogation, he also reportedly admitted to having stolen 5 Sukhoi Su-17 fighter aircraft, 9000 automatic Kalashnikovs, approximately 1.5 million bullets and other military equipment valued at a total of 30 million US dollars. Subsequently, Mr. Shikhmuradov was sentenced to life in prison, a sentence created especially for him, since the maximum time was previously 25 years. Additionally, he must pay 30 million dollars for damages to the Turkmen economy. It is feared that his confession resulted from him being subjected to torture, making his trial and the subsequent sentence incompatible with the internationally recognised standards of fair trial.

The attempted assassination took place on November 25th, 2002 in the centre of the capital, Ashgabat. The day before his detention, Boris Shikhmuradov published a letter on his opposition group’s website, in which he stated that he was going to turn himself in to the authorities because he could not tolerate friends and family being interrogated and tortured in relation with his alleged involvement in the assassination plot. Mr. Shikhmuradov claims that he was indeed involved in the organisation of political activity that was to take place at the end of November, but it was to be in the form of demonstrations and public protests, not the President’s assassination. According to him, the assassination plot was a ploy orchestrated by the government itself, which was aware of his plans, in order to have an excuse to get rid of him and the political opposition he embodies.

Boris’s sister Larissa Shikhmuradov has revealed that since the November 25th events, members of her family have been subjected to interrogation by the Turkmen Special Services. Her house has been searched several times and her husband was arrested for three days.

Konstantin Shikhmuradov, Boris’s brother, was arrested in Ashgabat on December 7th 2002. He was detained for two weeks without any charges being pressed. His arrest was reportedly based on the allegations of a person who claims that Konstantin extorted 1000 dollars from him and threatened to kill him. Konstantin Shikhmuradov was reportedly threatened by the prosecutor in charge of investigation his case with being sentenced to 14 years in prison as a terrorist rather than as an extortionist. According to Larissa Shikhmuradov, he is not being allowed family visits and no can bring him medication or warm clothing. His lawyer is also allowed to visit him. His wife, Aina is subjected to almost daily interrogations. Their family possessions have been seized but have not yet been officially confiscated. Their telephones are tapped and the house is under observation.

Aina’s brother’s son Beguentch Beknazarov is currently being sought by the authorities. His parents saw him for the last time on the morning of November 26 2002, since which time he has reportedly disappeared. The special services have claimed that their search for him is motivated by his involvement in a plot against the Government. His father, Amandourdy Beknazarov, aged 63 and handicapped, was arrested for 2 days by the Ministry of National Security. During his interrogation he was forced to tell the authorities about his son’s whereabouts. Beguentch’s mother was also interrogated several times as was his sister, aged 19, who was also arrested for 2 days.

Despite her inability to leave the house due to her advancing years, Boris’s mother is also under constant surveillance and her house is guarded by two armed agents. Unwarranted searches have reportedly frequently taken place and she is often threatened and interrogated by agents from the Ministry of National Security. Boris’ son lives abroad with his family, but his wife’s family have been interrogated frequently. Her sister, who is nearing the end of her pregnancy, was interrogated for 8 hours. At the beginning of December, a close family friend, 73-year old Dr. Aman Berdyklytchev, who suffers from cancer, was subjected to interrogations that lasted for several days.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of the persons who are being subjected to interrogation, detained incommunicado and threatened by the Turkmen authorities. OMCT calls on the authorities to guarantee their personal integrity, release all persons who have been arbitrarily arrested in relation with this case, and cease the harassment to which they are being subjected. OMCT is particularly concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Konstantin Shikhmuradov, who is being detained incommunicado and Beguentch Beknazarov, who has disappeared, as they are both at risk of being subjected to ill-treatment or torture. Furthermore, OMCT suspects that Boris Shikhmuradov’s confessions were extracted under duress and potentially torture, calling into question the validity of the verdict against him, which is compounded by the fact that the sentence is of a disproportionate and illegal length. OMCT is also gravely concerned by the apparent lack of independence of the judiciary in Turkmenistan.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Turkmenistan urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all persons that are being threatened or detained in relation with the Boris Shikhmuradov case;
ii. order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges or, if such charges exist, bring them before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
iii. guarantee adequate reparation to all injured people;
iv. immediately halt the threats and harassment to which these persons are being subjected;
v. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses

· Saparmurad Atayevich Niyazov, President, Office of the President, Zdaniye Pravitel`stra, Ashkabad, Turkmenistan; fax: (+9 9312) 35 51 12 / 51 17 55
· Rashit Ovezgeldiyevich Meredov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 744000 g Ahgabat; pr. Magtymguly, 83; Ministerstvo inostrannykh del Turkmenistan; Turkmenistan; fax: (+9 9312) 35 42 41

Please also write to the embassies of Turkmenistan in your respective country.

Geneva, February 14th, 2003

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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