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Turkmen dissident arrested in Bulgaria.

Turkmen dissident arrested in Bulga

Bulgarian police have arrested a Turkmen dissident and may extradite him to his authoritian homeland, authorities said on Wednesday.

Supporters of Annadurdy Khajiyev, a senior member of the exiled Watan party, said his arrest was politically motivated and asked the European Union to prevent the extradition.

Khajiyev’s sister, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Turkmenistan, died in prison in the reclusive Central Asia state last year, Watan said.

Bulgarian police said Khajiyev was arrested in the Black Sea town of Varna where a court was due to decide whether to keep him in jail for another 30 days. After that he might be extradited to Turkmenistan, police said.

"We can confirm the man was detained in Bulgaria on Feb. 19 after we received a special notification by Interpol in 2006," said Vanya Kotorova, a prosecutor. She did not specify the reason for his arrest.

His party demanded his immediate release.

"It is outrageous that a country which has joined the European Union is deliberately cooperating with one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world," it said in a statement posted on its Web site.

"We call on EU countries ... and international organisations to put pressure on Bulgaria’s authorities to stop this illegality."

Watan said Khajiyev’s family was continually persecuted in Turkmenistan. His sister, journalist Ogulsapar Muradova, died in jail last year after a trial described by human rights watchdog Amnesty International as unfair.

Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov succeeded Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in December after more than two decades in power.

Berdymukhamedov has vowed to retain Niyazov’s hardline policies. His predecessor was criticised in the West for cracking down on the opposition in the former Soviet country.

Turkmenistan’s exiled dissidents accuse Western nations of ignoring Turkmenistan’s human rights record and as they seek to forge good relations with the region’s top natural gas producer.

Reuters February 21, 2007

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