Vienna, 5 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed grave concern about the current media situation and state of human rights in Turkmenistan.
On 3 December, Turkmen police authorities arrested Azatlyk Khudayberdy Allashov, contributor for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on charges of possessing 11 kilograms of chewing tobacco, which is illegal in the country.
According to information before SEEMO; fully armed policemen with video cameras entered the home of Allashov in the Dashoguz area, beating him and rounding up his family. He, his wife and mother were all charged with the possession of chewing tobacco, which even though illegal, has never previously led to any arrests. Allashov’s wife later said that her husband’s “confession”, which could lead to a 7 year jail sentence, was coerced by force.
Allashov became a contributor for RFE/RL this October.
“We are asking for a clear and transparent investigation of the case. The journalist must be released. We believe these charges are part of a campaign aginst RFE/RL" Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said. " This is not the first case against a RFE / RL contributor. Two months ago Soltan Achilova, a RFE/RL reporter in Turkmenistan was physically attacked in three different attacks. Last year Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, also working fro RFE/RL was sentenced to three years in prison. We have also the case of Rovshen Yazmuhamedov working for RFE/RL, who was taken into police custody on 6 May 2013 has been held for two weeks int the police that year and in November this year he was threatened with enforcement of a suspended jail term from 2013", Vujovic added.