It was not a meeting of the highest representative body of people's power. It was a sophisticated legal process that violated all legal norms and all human laws.
December 30, 2002. On this day, the XIII (extraordinary) meeting of the Halk Maslakhaty - the People's Council of Turkmenistan was held. On the conscience of this puppet “supreme body of people’s representation,” which, according to the constitution, does not have legislative functions, many absurd decisions were made during the years of independence, for example, on conferring the title of “Turkmenbashi” on President Saparmurad Niyazov (1993) or on granting him the right to perform duties of the President of Turkmenistan without term limits (1999). The decision, unanimously adopted by the delegates of the XIII convention, to sentence the participants in the so-called "assassination and coup attempt", was also unprecedented in its content and illegal in essence.
... In those days, the era of Saparmurad Niyazov's rule was still far from death, for another four years his power would continue, until suddenly, overnight, "sudden cardiac arrest" would come. But even then, in 2002, he clearly felt how the gilded presidential chair was shaking under him, how waves of popular discontent were approaching his palace, and how the attitude towards his policy inside and outside the country was changing. Therefore, opening the meeting of the People's Council on December 30, he began "with the most pleasant."
During the 11 years of independence, 53 billion cubic meters of gas have been produced in Turkmenistan. 41 billion was sent for export, 12 billion went for domestic consumption, and the population of Turkmenistan received more than 7 billion cubic meters for free, the president pleased the delegates of the meeting with inflated figures. In 2002, for the first time, 2 million 315 thousand tons of grain were produced in the country (according to independent sources - 2 times less). Cotton did not work out a bit, but next year all the shortcomings will be corrected, and the cotton growers are obliged to collect at least 2.5 million tons of “white gold” (according to the EBRD, after “correcting the shortcomings”, the cotton harvest in 2003 amounted... barely 0,7 million tons, according to independent sources - three times less). It is expected that the total per capita income in 2003 will be more than $5,000 against $70 in 1991, and in the month of Novruz (March) Turkmenistan is expected to have a 6 millionth resident (no comments needed here!).
“Sometimes people ask me,” Niyazov confided, “what is the secret of our rapid success, growth and development. I myself am surprised by this at times. I myself think about many things, that this miracle is manifested by Allah himself, he helps us. When the people are pure, believe in Allah, then all things become successful ... "
“But, to our great regret,” he continued, “on the 25th of Sanjar (November), 2002, a well-known event took place…”
According to media reports, in the early morning of November 25, 2002, an armored presidential car, escorted by guards from a country residence to the Presidential Palace, was fired from automatic weapons in the center of the capital from a KamAZ truck that drove to the intersection. An emergency meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers was devoted to this incident, at which the president, without hesitation, named the organizers of the assassination attempt. Four surnames followed: Shikhmuradov, Iklymov, Orazov and Khanamov.
Doubt about the reliability of the hastily stated facts arose immediately: “In history, there are cases when the first persons of the state arrange ''theatrical performances'', firing machine guns at their armored limousines in order to then deal with their opponents ... The staging of the assassination attempt can be explained by panic fear of Niyazov, who became pathologically afraid of an attempt on his life," the media commented. Doubts were caused, in particular, by the use of weapons against an armored vehicle that did not pose a real threat to it. But although the "event" itself was the product of Niyazov's obviously sick fantasy, the events that followed were more than real.
According to human rights organizations, since November 25, for the entire subsequent period of time in Turkmenistan, primarily in Ashgabat, there have been mass arrests. People were taken in "wholesale", whole families, regardless of age.
On November 25, businessman Guvanch Djumaev, the owner of the "Gayrat" pharmacy chain, and three of his relatives were arrested: father, brother and son. The American businessman Leonid Komarovsky, who was visiting Dzhumaev's house, was arrested on the night of November 27.
On November 28, Yazgeldy Gundogdyev, the former mayor of Dashoguz province, was arrested, until July 1997 he held the position of head of the department of international relations and state protocol of the Office of the President of Turkmenistan, in the past - deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Komsomol of Turkmenistan (1985-1989).
On December 2, at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, a report was heard from the Prosecutor General, the ministers of national security and internal affairs, as well as the head of the State Border Service on the progress of the investigation of the “terrorist act”. As follows from these messages, the picture of the crime has been completely restored, all its participants have been detained. The detainees are already called criminals, although the investigation has not yet been completed.
On December 7, the former ambassador to Austria and representative of Turkmenistan to the OSCE Batyr Berdyev and Konstantin Shikhmuradov were arrested, and Major of the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan Begench Beknazarov is also wanted.
On December 9, Vekil Durdiyev was arrested, a few days later - the former chairman of the National Security Committee Saparmurad Seyidov and the former head of the State Border Service Akmurad Kabulov ...
“It has become known that lots of people detained or arrested in Ashgabat in connection with the assassination attempt on President Niyazov are being beaten. Officials refuse to tell their relatives about their whereabouts,” emphasizes Vitaly Ponomarev, head of the Memorial Human Rights Center. Later, Memorial will report new evidence that confessions are obtained by torture of the suspects themselves or their relatives. The authorities also refuse to allow lawyers to see them. Being in such inhuman conditions, people begin to give "confessions", involuntarily confirming the version put forward by the Prosecutor General's Office, on the basis of which the accusation is based, they slander themselves and their friends. "Confessions" of the accused are shown on Turkmen television from morning to evening.
When asked by an "Izvestia" correspondent whether he was often beaten in prison, Leonid Komarovsky, released from prison, five months later, thanks to the intervention of the US Embassy, replied: “Seven to eight times. True, as an American, I was taken to the doctor. They beat me at the Ministry of National Security and interrogate me at the prosecutor's office. They bring you for interrogation already mutilated, ready for any questions. There are special torture chambers in the basement of the Ministry of National Security isolation ward. They took me there, they hit me in the kidneys so that I almost lost consciousness. They seated me in a chair, pulled a black knitted cap over my face. They pressed my hand to the table and began to inject into a vein. I felt panic, I decided that they were killing me in this way. When the medicine went into the vein, the head buzzed, heaviness fell, then a failure. And then I came to senses as if after a faint. And I don't remember anything. It was in this state that I was filmed.”
Two weeks after the assassination attempt, the number of those arrested approaches 150. Two weeks later, on December 25, Boris Shikhmuradov was arrested. For the next three days there were continuous interrogations, during which those shocking “confessions” of Shikhmuradov, which Niyazov demonstrated on December 30 at a meeting of the Halk maslahaty, were filmed. And although the Prosecutor General told the "Interfax" news agency that “the treatment of Shikhmuradov was extremely correct, no physical measures were taken”, and the online newspaper “Turkmenistan.ru” confirmed this, writing that “the accused spoke quite calmly, clearly and looked absolutely sane person”, the audience saw a completely different picture:
“The show trials broadcast on state television ominously set off the closed nature of the trials. In this sense, the video recordings of the trials shown on television speak for themselves, frankly testifying to the accelerated administration of justice in violation of all the principles of a fair trial ... In this context, it is enough to mention the case of Boris Shikhmuradov, which the authorities wanted to make indicative. The most tragic spectacle appeared to the eyes of TV viewers on December 29, when Boris Shikhmuradov, who had changed beyond recognition, appeared on TV screens with the subtitle ''terrorist'' (from a report by Prof. Emmanuel Decaux within the framework of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism).
In fact, it was not a meeting of the People's Council - the highest representative body of people's power. It was a sophisticated legal process that violated all legal norms and all human laws. But instead of the defendants themselves, who could not be presented live after receiving "confessions", a video recording of these testimonies was shown on the big screen. But even this turned out to be quite enough to bring those present in the conference hall into a state close to collective madness. It seemed that the whole hall, chanting calls for physical punishment of the convicts, was in a state of extreme drug intoxication.
In earlier publications about this event, we have already cited fragments from the speeches of the delegates, called their names, so there is no point in repeating their crazy nonsense again. They all demanded one thing - the death penalty for people who literally sacrificed themselves for the mere desire to help Turkmenistan get rid of totalitarianism and, not in words, but in deeds, embark on the path of democratic reforms.
But the "kind father of all Turkmens” did not heed the voice of the people’s deputies, he decided that death would not be a severe enough punishment, that it was necessary to sentence the “traitors to the motherland” to life imprisonment, which is often called “death by installments”, not paying attention to the fact that this measure of punishment was not provided for by the Criminal Code of Turkmenistan. And, having secured the approval of the chairman of the Supreme Court, Yagshigeldy Esenov, he ordered that the three convicts be immediately replaced by the same Esenov’s sentence - 25 years in prison for Boris Shikhmuradov, as well as in absentia for Nurmukhammed Khanamov and Khudaiberdy Orazov - with life imprisonment. Later, Saparmurad Iklymov (in absentia), Annadurdy Annasakhatov, Iklym Iklymov, Nurmukhammed Orazgeldiyev, Guvanch Djumaev and Begench Beknazarov were also sentenced to life imprisonment.
The names of these and dozens of other political prisoners are well known: they are included in the list of victims of enforced disappearance compiled by human rights activists as part of the international campaign “Prove they are alive!”. Convicted at the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003, they are still in conditions that exclude any form of communication with the outside world, despite the fact that for some prisoners the terms of imprisonment have either already expired or will expire in the coming year 2021.
Annadurdy Annasakhatov, Chary Djumaev, Vekil Durdyev, Chary Taymazov, Annamurad Khadjamuradov have already passed away. On December 28, Yazgeldy Gundogdyev died. January 21, he would have turned 65 years old. These are the names of those "Novemberists" whose death became public. Most likely, the authorities hide the fact that there are many more victims, especially among those who received the maximum terms of imprisonment and who were subjected to the harshest prison conditions and the most inhuman methods of interrogation.
It so happened that on July 13, 2007, the Chairman of the Supreme Court, Ovezgeldy Esenov, already under the new president, was relieved of his post and subsequently convicted, but, as it turned out, this was not due to violations committed during the trials of "traitors to the motherland ". The hopes of many at least for an alleviation of the fate of political prisoners after Niyazov's death turned out to be in vain.
“It would be beneficial for the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, after coming to power, to provide data of those prisoners who disappeared without a trace behind bars during the reign of Saparmyrat Niyazov,” commented Nurmukhammed Khanamov, leader of the Republican Party of Turkmenistan in exile, in an interview with Deutsche Welle about the publication of an updated list of “disappeared without a trace".
According to him, Berdymukhammedov could have informed the relatives back in 2007 about the whereabouts and health status of those "Novembersits" about whose fate the Niyazov authorities did not provide any information, even about those who might not have been around at the end of 2006. «Thus, he would partially relieve himself of responsibility for the lawlessness committed by Niyazov. And now this blame is fully on him, especially since his regime continues this practice, apparently considering criticism from outside as a ''moderate price'' for the opportunity to keep objectionable persons in complete obscurity,» N. Khanamov said.
In the coming year, Turkmenistan will have to discuss its third periodic report in the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT). Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has necessitated the implementation of certain preventive and protective measures, the exact date of the regular sessions of the Committee in 2021 has not yet been finally determined. It is likely that the consideration of the Turkmen report may be postponed to next year. Nevertheless, we already have an opportunity to get familiar with its text on the UN website. The authors of the report promise that it provides answers to concluding remarks made by the CAT in 2016 during the consideration of the previous of the report, as well as to the general recommendations, given by the Committee.
As an example let's consider how this promise is fulfilled in relation to the topics covered in this article.
The committee recommends:
Put an end to incommunicado detention and ensure that all persons held in such conditions are released or allowed to receive visits from their families and lawyers;
Keep the Committee informed as a matter of priority of the fate and whereabouts of all those convicted and imprisoned for the alleged attempted assassination of the former President;
Take the measures necessary to guarantee a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation of all outstanding cases of alleged disappearance and prosecution of those responsible; notify victims' relatives of the results of such investigations and prosecutions and provide them with remedies, if appropriate.
The Mejlis of Turkmenistan systematically conducts a comprehensive monitoring of the legislation of Turkmenistan for its compliance with the provisions of eight international documents to which Turkmenistan is a party (meaning 8 out of 10 major international treaties in the field of human rights), and the adoption of new laws to protect human rights.
Currently, the Mejlis is actively working on the development of the draft Criminal Code of Turkmenistan in a new edition. The working group is analyzing the norms of the Criminal Code in order to humanize and bring them in line with the international obligations of Turkmenistan.
The legislation of Turkmenistan contains an article providing for the participation of a lawyer in criminal proceedings. A lawyer is allowed to participate in the case from the moment of interrogation of a person as a suspect in the commission of a crime, in the event of a charge being brought - from the moment of its presentation or from the moment the protocol of detention or the decision on the application of this measure of restraint is announced to him, but no later than twenty-four hours from the moment of detention.
The following is data on the quantity of lawyers involved in the detention of suspects in 2016-2020 broken down by years and provinces.
There is no information about the prisoners subjected to enforced disappearance! Comments, as they say, are unnecessary.
The CAT begins almost each of its recommendations with the words: “The Committee reiterates…” It must be said with great regret that even as a result of consideration of this report, the Committee is unlikely to receive any intelligible answers. This is the policy of the Turkmen authorities developed over the years to cover up violations of human rights.
This does not mean that you have to give up. Probably, human rights activists are already preparing their alternative reports, which will cite facts of enforced disappearances, torture and death in places of detention, arbitrary detentions, and intimidation of activists and their relatives. And we, in turn, promise to continue commenting on this report in the near future.