11 july 2020

Central Asia news

Several Ovadan-Depe prisoners placed under house arrest

07.02.2007 10:59 msk

Mehman Gafarly

Politics Turkmenistan

Acting president and candidate for Turkmenistan presidency Gurbankuly Berdymuhammedov set out to dismantle the Turkmenbashi's totalitarian regime without waiting for the outcome of the Sunday election. The latest reports from Ashkhabad indicate that several ex-senior officials were released from prisons and placed under house arrest. Ovadan-Depe, special jail for state officials, is to be torn down altogether.

Former deputy premiers Yelly Gurbanmuradov and Dortkuli Aidogdyev are among the prisoners transferred from jail and placed under house arrest. The former was in charge of the finances once, the latter handled national textile industry and headed the diplomatic mission in Germany at one point. Gurbanmuradov and Aidogdyev were fired in spring 2006, accused of "financial fraud", tried, and sentenced to 20 years behind the bars with confiscation of all their property. Needless to say, the trials were closed.

Gurbanmuradov and Aidogdyev were prisoners in Ovadan-Depe, a special jail for the Turkmenbashi's personal enemies located 70 kilometers from Ashkhabad. All Ovadan-Depe inmates are former members of the government. Saparmurat Niyazov personally had examined blueprints of the future prison and monitored the process of its construction. Ovadan-Depe security is really something: several security screens are manned by officers of the Interior Ministry, National Security Service, and Defense Ministry. Prisoners exist in appalling conditions, they are regularly tortured. According to the opposition tabloid Turkmenskaya Iskra published in Moscow, special tours of Ovadan-Depe were arranged new appointments to the upper echelons of state power under Niyazov. It gave them an idea what was waiting whoever had the temerity to disobey "the father of all Turkmens".

"Gurbanmuradov and Aidogdyev have their friendship with Berdymuhammedov to thank for the loosening of the regime," to quote Bairam Shihmuradov of the Republican Party of Turkmenistan, the son of another prisoner (ex-prime minister Boris Shihmuradov). "They will be released after the presidential election on February 11, i.e. after legitimization of the new regime." Shihmuradov believes that the new authorities of Turkmenistan intend to enlist the services of experienced administrators and state officials now. "The authorities need someone to rely on, but there are no more experienced administrators who are not in jail. Niyazov imprisoned practically everyone in all spheres beginning with finances and ending with education," Shihmuradov added.

Observers in the meantime call the essential release of two former deputy premiers a harbinger of a Turkmen "thaw" and view it as an indication of the forthcoming liberalization. It seems that the penitentiary system is going to be affected by the changes too. Die Deutsche Welle reports that Ovadan-Depe is being torn down right now and that its inmates are being transferred elsewhere. The German broadcaster even reported a source in the Turkmen Security Council as saying that the cases of some prisoners might be revised.

Turkmen human rights activists maintain that Ovadan-Depe inmates rioted upon hearing of Niyazov's death. They began banging their metal dishes against the bars and demanding release. Wardens hollered for reinforcements and Ashkhabad dispatched two helicopters with special forces. Suppressing the riot, special forces killed 23 inmates.

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Mehman Gafarly

Novye Izvestia, February 7, 2007, p. 4

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru