On March 3, 2005, a well-known Turkmen writer, Rahim Esenov, was due to fly to Moscow for extensive medical examinations and treatment in one of the Russian hospitals to which he is assigned as a labor veteran. (Esenov holds dual Turkmen and Russian citizenship.)
Rahim Esenov was first subject to persecution in the beginning of 2004 (see press-release of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation from February 27, 2004), when Turkmenistani authorities charged him with smuggling for allegedly bringing into the country his novel about medieval India, Venetsenosnii Skitalets (Hallowed Wanderer). Based on these charges and in accordance with Article 177 of the Turkmen Criminal Code, the authorities accused him of “incitement of social, ethnic and religious hatred.” On February 27, 2004, officials of the special services took R. Esenov, who had suffered a stroke, from the hospital and brought him to the pretrial detention facility of the Ministry of National Security (MNS). When this incident provoked broad outcry abroad, the authorities had to release R. Esenov. Later, eight hundred copies of the book Ventsenosnii Skitalets were confiscated from Esenov and destroyed. Esenov called it an act of vandalism.
Last year Rahim Esenov was forced to sign a written promise not to leave the country. Since then he has appealed to the MNS and the General Prosecutor’s Office several times asking them to lift the ban on his leaving the country. He has received no official answers to any of his letters. However, once in a while special services hold “prophylactic talks” with him.
Rahim Esenov informed the MNS and the General Prosecutor’s Office in advance about his intentions to leave for Moscow on March 3 to seek medical treatment. After that, Esenov was summoned to the MNS by the investigator, Chardjou Sahatmuradov, who had been working on his case before. Sahatmuradov prohibited Esenov to leave Turkmenistan and threatened to reopen his case, since it has been not closed but only suspended.
Last year, Esenov’s son-in-law, Igor Kaprielov, also fell victim of persecution and was sentenced to a five-year suspended term. For a year he has been going to the police station every Saturday to check in.
Rahim Esenov said, “Now doctors are strongly recommending that I undergo extensive medical examinations and treatment in a specialized cardiology ward. Since I was taken straight from the emergency room to prison, all my trust in Turkmenistani doctors has disappeared. Besides, now (after the January announcement about the closure of all regional hospitals – THF note), Ashgabat hospitals discharge their patients after ten days or less, regardless of the state of their health. Plus, treatment costs big money here.”
As a Russian citizen and a veteran, Esenov is entitled to free hospitalization and treatment in one of the best Russian clinics. The ban on his leaving the country violates Esenov’s right to effective and reasonable medical care.
Recently Rahim Esenov was invited to the Russian Embassy in Turkmenistan where he was informed that the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, handed the Turkmen Ambassador to Russia, Halmurad Agahanov, a note regarding Esenov’s situation.
The Turkmen Helsinki Foundation asks international organizations to pay close attention to continuous persecution of dissidents and persons regarded as such by the Turkmen authorities.
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation, /Translation by the Open Society Institute’s Turkmenistan Project/
March 31, 2005