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EU praised on halted Turkmen deal.

EU praised on halted Turkmen deal.

A prominent human rights group has praised the European Parliament for not pursuing a trade agreement with Turkmenistan on human rights grounds.

Human Rights Watch said the decision showed that the EU would not allow abusive governments to profit from it.

An EU committee said it would not approve the deal without sustained improvement on human rights.

The EU called for the release of political prisoners and freedom for non-governmental organisations.

"This is a landmark decision against tyranny," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, of the decision by the EU Parliament’s International Trade Committee.

The committee resolution stated that the EU would only approve an interim trade agreement with Turkmenistan if "clear, tangible, and sustained progress" on the human rights situation was achieved.

Death in custody

Turkmenistan is effectively a one-party state run since Soviet times by Saparmyrat Niyazov, and has no independent media.

Human Rights Watch says the human rights situation has deteriorated in recent months.

A Turkmen journalist, Olgusapar Muradova, died in custody last month. Family members who saw her body said she had sustained a wound to her head.

Ms Muradova was arrested in June together with several other people.

In a closed trial, two of the defendants were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Ms Muradova received a six-year sentence.

She died subsequently in prison in circumstances which Human Rights Watch describes as "highly suspicious".

BBC October 4, 2006

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