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Turkmenistan: Restore the Rights of Formerly Imprisoned Lawyer Pygamberdy Allaberdyev

Turkmenistan: Restore the Rights of Formerly Imprisoned Lawyer Pygamberdy Allaberdyev

Freedom Now and the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights call on the government of Turkmenistan to fully restore the rights of Pygamberdy Allaberdyev, a lawyer who served more than two years in prison for his pro-democracy activism.

Allaberdyev is a former employee of the Nebitdagneft department of the Ministry of Oil and Gas. On September 5, 2020, Allaberdyev was arrested on hooliganism charges resulting from an incident at a where he was physically attacked unprovoked by an unidentified individual. The arrest occurred in the lead-up to a pro-democracy rally which was organized by a foreign opposition movement that Allaberdiev sympathized with. Three weeks later he was convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment after a two-hour trial that was closed to the public. He was released from prison on December 10, 2022, as part of a mass pardon in recognition of the Day of Neutrality, a national holiday in Turkmenistan.

In November 2022, an employee of the Ministry of National Security warned Allaberdyev that he would be barred from leaving the country for five years following his release. No official documentation was presented regarding this travel ban. The following month when Allaberdyev was released he was again informed about the travel ban by police in his town and told that the conditions of his release required him to report regularly to the authorities. Allaberdyev objected to these strict probation conditions on the grounds that they are only applied to individuals with convictions for serious offenses, which did not apply in his case. However, authorities told him that the conditions were ordered by a directive from their superiors in the government.

Allaberdyev submitted dozens of petitions protesting the circumstances of his probation to the Ombudsman, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Migration, and Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov. He only received one response to his application from the Main Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of National Security, informing him that his complaint had been transferred to the district police officer who supervised him. Follow-up communications sent to other entities went unanswered, and Allaberdyev was eventually informed by postal authorities that his letters did not reach their intended recipients.

The conditions of Allaberdyev’s probation have greatly impacted his livelihood and wellbeing. He has a dependent minor daughter, a wife who is undergoing surgery, and a 78-year-old father with blindness. However, he is unable to secure gainful employment as a lawyer as result of his conviction and cannot fully financially support his family.

Additionally, the parole restrictions interfere with Allaberdyev’s ability to receive adequate medical treatment. Prior to his imprisonment, Allaberdyev regularly traveled to Iran for treatment of several medical issues, including chronic hypertension. It is common for Turkmenistani citizens to travel abroad for medical treatment as the local healthcare system lacks qualified doctors and malpractice is widespread. However, he is no longer able to obtain his treatment due to the travel ban.

In April 2022, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Turkmenistan violated international law by imprisoning Allaberdyev. In its decision the Working Group stated that it was “convinced that the true reason for Mr. Allaberdyev’s arrest and detention was his peaceful exercise of the freedom of expression and freedom of association as evidenced by the fabricated circumstances of his arrest and the trial as well as the very harsh penalty imposed by the court.” The Working Group also called on Turkmenistan to accord Allaberdyev with his an enforceable rights to reparations and rehabilitation, which are guaranteed rights under international law for those who have been wrongfully detained.

Freedom Now and the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights call on the government of Turkmenistan to abide by the decision of the Working Group, quash the conviction of Allaberdyev, and to restore his rights, including the right to freedom of movement, without delay.

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