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Turkmenistan Tears Down Its Oldest Prison


Workers tear down Turkmenbashi prison.

Authorities in Turkmenistan say crime is falling in the Central Asian state under President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. And in an effort to prove it, they razed the country's oldest jail in front of diplomats and journalists in the Caspian Sea port of Turkmenbashi.

The maximum-security prison, built in 1949, was infamous for its three-square-meter cells.

"This is the first demolition of a prison in Turkmenistan and is due to a reduction in crime not only in the province but the country as a whole and the strengthening of law and order," Interior Minister Orazgeldy Anamyradov said.

He said the number of crimes committed in Turkmenistan had dropped by 12 percent in 2007, Berdymukhammedov's first year in office following the death of Saparmurat Niyazov.

Turkmenistan's total prison population is unknown. Human rights groups say many political prisoners are still behind bars.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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