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A school teacher told the details of his arrest in Turkmenistan for electronic correspondence with activists

A school teacher told the details of his arrest in Turkmenistan for electronic correspondence with activists

We previously reported that chemistry teacher Reimberdy Kurbanov, detained on August 8 in Turkmenabat for electronic correspondence with activists of the protest movement abroad, was released on August 25 after 15 days of administrative arrest.

Kurbanov Reimberdy Muradovich, born January 11, 1996, worked as a teacher at a local specialized school. He was detained by police in the afternoon of August 8 at work place. Security services' officers seized computer equipment, telephones and electronic storage media, on which they found materials related to the protest movement and social problems of Turkmenistan. The persons conducting the search refused to present any documents and seized all the electronics without drawing up a report.

The day before Reimberda’s arrest, Kurbanov said that he feared for his safety due to his active participation in chats and correspondence through the IMO.

Recently, in an interview with one of the YouTube channels, Kurbanov confirmed the message and told the details: “On August 8, 2020, at school, an employee of the Ministry of National Security, Merdan, and two unknown persons approached me and twisted my hands and put me in a police car. I asked: "Why was I arrested?" Merdan replied: “You killed a man.” They confiscated my phone, which contained all my correspondence with foreign activists of the protest movement.

After that my hellish days began. Twice a day I was interrogated, insulted, and subjected to severe psychological pressure. They asked questions: Who pays you from abroad? Who gave you T-shirts with the inscription “Stop Dictator” and T-shirts with a green flag?...I was accused of being an activist, a Wahhabi, a terrorist, and that I was destroying the democratic system of Turkmenistan... One by one they went to all my relatives and checked their phones, called in for questioning. They threatened that if I did not agree to work for them, then my life and the life of my family members would be turned into hell, and I would be imprisoned for 25 years. I realized that I had no other choice and pretended that I agreed to work for them.”

On August 10, a closed session of Turkmenabat city court was held, attended by R. Kurbanov, employees of the Ministry of National Security Mekan and Merdan. No lawyer was provided. According to the article 345 “Petty hooliganism” of the Code of Turkmenistan on administrative offenses, R. Kurbanov was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest. The school teacher is confident that agreeing to cooperate with the intelligence services helped him avoid more serious punishment.

Kurbanov describes the conditions of detention in the pre-trial detention center as terrifying: “It’s very difficult there, there are no windows in the room, no bed linen, the toilet is allowed 3 times a day, there is no soap or shampoo. They serve tasteless food on aluminum plates, there are just some pieces floating in the water, there are no spoons or other utensils.”

At the same time, three of his students, one classmate and a close friend of Kurbanov, who was also forced to cooperate, were subjected to constant interrogation and harassment. “When I was locked up for 15 days, they called my students, friends and colleagues, took them away for interrogation, threatened them and filmed them, demanding to say on camera: “We do not support Reimberdi.” They put a lot of psychological pressure on me, they said that they had orders from their management.”

After 15 days, the Reimberds were released after taking a receipt. The security forces assigned him the code name “Chemist”.

Kurbanov's story describes the practice of juggling and fabricating criminal cases. After the teacher agreed to cooperate, “they said: we’ll give you a light sentence and you’ll fall under amnesty. Then they asked if I had a debt, saying that then we could put you in prison for fraud. They tried to find a reason for allegedly earning more than the average salary. Then they found another reason that I upload pornographic videos to my phone and distribute them to minor children... for this they can bring witnesses, bribing them with 1 bottle of Coca-Cola and 5 pieces of samsa (local food), who can confirm that I am distributing this video" - Kurbanov said.

R. Kurbanov was taken under escort to an employee of the Ministry of National Security named Myrat, who forced the teacher to admit that he had criticized the president in a dissident chat. Then another employee named Aman took him to his office and demanded to describe everything that happened in the chat messages of the DVT movement. After this, they took a receipt that allegedly no physical or moral pressure was exerted on him and warned him of criminal liability for violating public order if Kurbanov again became interested in the protest movement.

“Then they gave me a blank sheet of paper and demanded that I write a petition to the Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan to accept me into a free detachment in the Ministry of National Security, they gave me the name (nickname) Khimik (Chemist) and forced me to sign a document. They added me to the DVT chat and demanded that I share VPN with some activists. I know that 4 people were affected by this, but I don't know their names.

Then I entered the master's program at the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia in the physics and mathematics department. At the end of December 2021, I left Turkmenistan.”

Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

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