Vienna, 19 December 2006. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TI) are concerned about the detention of Andrey Zatoka, a well-known Turkmen ecologist and environmental activist, in the city of Dashauz on 17 December 2006. The reasons for Zatoka’s detention remain unclear, but the circumstances clearly suggest that it was an act of intimidation motivated by his civil society engagement. Zatoka has been involved in civil society activities aimed at improving environmental conditions in Turkmenistan for many years and previously served as the co-chair of the Dashauz Ecological Club, which was closed down by a court in 2003. He was detained the same day as he was supposed to leave for Ashgabat, from where he was due to travel to Moscow to attend a meeting of the International Socio-Ecological Union, on whose advisory board he is serving. His family resides in Russia, and he planned to celebrate the New Year with them.
The IHF and the TI call on the Turkmen authorities to promptly investigate the case of Zatoka and to ensure that he is immediately released if his detention was politically motivated. We also urge the authorities to ensure that he can, without hindrance, continue to engage in peaceful and legitimate civil society activities benefiting the citizens of Turkmenistan, including by interacting with colleagues from other countries. For more information:
Aaron Rhodes, IHF Executive Director, +43-676-635 6612 Henriette Schroeder, IHF press Officer, +43-676-725 4829
Farid Tukhbatullin, TI Chair, +43-1-944 1327