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Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

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A citizen of Turkmenistan who sought asylum for his religious beliefs was illegally deported from Russia

Religious refugee from Turkmenistan illegally deported from Russia

On Wednesday evening 30 august, Turkmen refugee Ashyrbay Bekiev, persecuted in his homeland for religious reasons, was illegally deported from Moscow to Ashgabat. The Muslim man was detained this spring and has since been held in a deportation center in Krasnoe Selo in St. Petersburg.

At about 11 o'clock in the afternoon, he called a friend and said that he will be deported today. His lawyer contacted the Main Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who confirmed this information. The regional commissioner for human rights replied that he "cannot help in any way," and the prosecutor on duty could not be reached by phone.

At 15:30 Ashyrbay got in touch and said that he had been taken to Moscow and would be sent to Ashgabat on September 9. However, this information turned out to be inaccurate. At about 21:00, he sent a short video from the aircraft cabin to his son, after which communication with him was interrupted. According to the information board of the Domodedovo airport, at 21:25, a flight of the Russian airline S7 departed from Moscow to Ashgabat.

The case of Ashyrbay Bekiev attracted the attention of the media and human rights activists in 2016, when he was detained in St. Petersburg on an extradition request from Turkmenistan. Despite the clearly fabricated nature of the charges, the Prosecutor General's Office decided to extradite him. However, in May 2017, Ashyrbay was released after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Rule 39 of the court rules would apply, which prohibited his forced return to his homeland.

Ashyrbay Bekiev could not leave Russia because his passport had expired. This became the basis for accusation of violating immigration laws. In March 2023, the police issued a decision to ban him from entering Russia for 5 years (the ban was appealed against).

In the latest response of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for St. Petersburg and Leningrad region dated 06/23/2023, it was reported that the asylum application received by the migration authority could be considered only after the completion of the "identification" procedure.

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Now the Ministry of Internal Affairs claims that this answer "should be considered invalid." However, the fact that an asylum seeker was expelled before the completion of the asylum procedure is a serious violation of international and national law.

Ashyrbay's brother, Tachmyrat Bekiev, remains in custody in St. Petersburg. The Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation is considering the issue of his extradition to Turkmenistan.

Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

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