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Central Asia news

More than 9,000 prisoners to be set free in Turkmenistan

10.09.2007 11:53 msk

Novye Izvestia

Human Rights Turkmenistan

Turkmen National Security Minister Geldymuhammed Ashirmuhammedov said addressing enlarged meeting of the Cabinet last week that preparations for another amnesty were under way.

More than 9,000 prisoners will be set free. "Do whatever is needed to make sure that the amnestied persons return to their homes," President Gurbankuly Berdymuhammedov ordered. The amnesty will take place on the so called Forgiveness Night or Gadyr Gijesi that is annually celebrated ten days before the Uraz (Moslem fast). This year, this day when all Moslems are supposed to forgive everyone for past hurts and offenses will occur on October 2.

The law on the annual amnesty on the Forgiveness Night was adopted on late Saparmurat Niyazov's initiative in 1999. Over 10,000 prisoners (out of 18,000) were release from penitentiary establishments last year.

Berdymuhammedov, however, decided to make the amnesty year-round. He signed the decree "On establishment of a state panel to work with complaints from citizenry against performance of law enforcement agencies" this February. The commission was established and had eleven political prisoners released this August. All of them had been convicted and imprisoned in connection with the so called November 25 affairs.

Five years ago, the Turkmen Prosecutor General's Office made mass arrests following a attempted takeover and attempt on Niyazov's life on November 25, 2002. Prime Minister Boris Shikhmuradov was the prime suspect. Everyone convicted under these charges drew between 15 and 25 years imprisonment. Shikhmuradov himself is in prison even now, but some other convicts were amnestied. Berdymuhammedov already announced that "the amnesty will take place step by step now, the whole year round." In the meantime, official Ashkhabad is not exactly in a hurry to permit representatives of the International Red Cross to visit Turkmen jails where human rights activists claim lots of political prisoners are serving their time.

Mekhman Gafarly, Novye Izvestia, September 10, 2007, p. 4. © Translated by Ferghana.Ru