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Turkmen Report: January 31, 2003

31 January 2003
Russian Bank Chief Arrested In Turkmen Embezzling Probe
28 January 2003

Russian authorities have arrested the head of a Russian private bank in connection with the alleged embezzlement of tens of millions of dollars from the Central Bank of Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 28 January.

An official of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office said Dmitrii Leus, chief executive of the Russian Depositary Bank, had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the misappropriation of about $20 million. The arrest was reported to have been made on the basis of allegations from Turkmen authorities. (ITAR-TASS, AP)

Turkmen Officials Pledge Loyalty To President
27 January 2003

The Turkmen press published on 27 January a pledge of loyalty to President Saparmurat Niyazov by four senior officials who earlier received awards from Niyazov for their services in apprehending and imprisoning the persons convicted in connection with the putative 25 November attempt on Niyazov's life, ITAR-TASS reported. (ITAR-TASS)

Niyazov Rewards Prosecutor-General, Interior Minister
25 January 2003

President Niyazov has bestowed the Turkmenbashi award on Prosecutor-General Kurbanbibi Atajanova, Interior Minister Annaberdy Kakabaev, National Security Minister Batyr Busakov, and Supreme Court Chairman Yagshigeldy Esenov for their roles in apprehending and sentencing the putative participants in the alleged 25 November attempt to assassinate Niyazov, reported on 25 January.

In addition, Niyazov promoted Busakov and Kakabaev and the latter's first deputy, Geldymukhammed Ashirmukhammedov, to the rank of general. (

Turkmen President Says Trial Of Would-Be Assassins Ends With 46 Convictions
24 January 2003

Saparmurat Niyazov said on 24 January that a total of 46 people have been convicted of plotting and attempting to assassinate him, bringing to an end their closed-door trial, RTR reported the same day. Niyazov told state television another "five or 10 people" were involved in the alleged November attempt on his life, but he added that they would not be tracked down "for now."

Niyazov was unhurt but four police officers were wounded when, on 25 November, gunmen opened fire on his motorcade as it was traveling through the capital. Prior to the statement published on 24 January, several 25-year prison sentences were announced for a number of those found guilty of taking part in the assassination bid. (RTR)

Niyazov Orders Publication Of Assassination Trial Materials
23 January 2003

President Niyazov has ordered Prosecutor-General Kurbanbibi Atajanova to publish as a separate volume the materials of the investigation into the alleged 25 November assassination attempt and the proceedings of the trials of those charged with that alleged attack, reported on 23 January.

Niyazov said it is necessary to make those materials public so that in 10 or 20 years those sentenced in connection with the attack cannot claim they were innocent. (

Civil Servants' Wages, Pensions To Double
22 January 2003

President Niyazov signed a decree on 22 January raising to 1.5 million manats ($290 at the official exchange rate) the average monthly salary of government employees, ITAR-TASS reported.

Niyazov said the increase was made possible by economic growth, which he said amounted to 21.5 percent in 2002. International financial organizations have long regarded Turkmen claims of double-digit economic growth with some skepticism. (ITAR-TASS)

Authorities Deny Reported Case Against Russian Reporter
22 January 2003

The Turkmen authorities have not launched a criminal case against Arkadii Dubnov, a reporter for the "Vremya novostei" newspaper, nor have they demanded his extradition, Interfax reported on 22 January, citing Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valerii Loschinin.

"A criminal case against the newspaper's prominent journalist has not been launched. There were no reports about extraditing him to the Turkmen authorities," Loschinin told "Vremya novostei" in an interview published on 22 January. "Someone said something that triggered a loud media campaign, even in our outlets," he said.

An Ashgabat source earlier told Interfax that the Turkmen law-enforcement agencies had not launched a case against Dubnov. Media reports say that Dubnov was suspected of participating in the alleged attempt to assassinate President Niyazov. (Interfax)

EU For Transparent Inquest Into Developments In Turkmenistan
21 January 2003

The European Union has called for a full, transparent inquest into the recent developments in Turkmenistan, the EU's Greek Presidency said in a statement, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 January.

The EU called on the Turkmen government to facilitate access to Turkmenistan for a fact-finding mission in accordance with Turkmen international commitments. (ITAR-TASS)

Turkmen Opposition Leader Begins Hunger Strike
20 January 2003

Exiled Turkmen politician Sapar Yklymov began a protest fast on 20 January in Stockholm to draw attention to what he called recent human rights abuses in Turkmenistan, RTR reported the same day.

Yklymov told reporters that "the human rights situation in Turkmenistan is worse than in Iraq or North Korea." Yklymov and former Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, who was sentenced to life in prison in December, are accused of masterminding a failed assassination attempt in November against President Niyazov. Yklymov is a former Turkmen deputy agriculture minister. He has been living in Sweden since 1997. (RTR)

Turkmenbashi Strikes Back

24 January 2003

By Bruce Pannier

The Turkmen government has come under pressure from several organizations and the United States government over its handling of the investigation into the reported assassination attempt against Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.

So far more than 30 people have been given lengthy sentences by Turkmen courts, including at least three life sentences amid reports of torture and coerced confessions. There are still at least 30 people awaiting trial.

Niyazov took the offensive this week, ordering his prosecutor-general to publish a book called "Traitors to the Homeland" detailing the alleged plot against Niyazov and listing alleged conspirators. Niyazov also sent his foreign minister to Vienna to convince the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) there is no need to send a special mission to Turkmenistan, an OSCE member, to investigate charges of mass arrests, torture and bias against suspects in the courtroom. The Turkmen opposition website Gundogar reported Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov arrived in Vienna under instructions not to speak with the press.

Niyazov announced the move on 22 January. "I sent the foreign minister today to Vienna, to the OSCE, to take along with him all the cassettes and to show them there," he said. Meredov is reportedly carrying videotapes of the trials to date, as well as confessions and investigations at the scene of the crime.

Niyazov's reasons for sending Meredov to Vienna likely had to do with comments made last week by Freimut Duve, the media-freedom representative for the OSCE. Duve was speaking at the OSCE Permanent Council, the organization's main decision-making body, and sharply criticized the way the media in Turkmenistan is reporting on the trials. "You present those you want to get rid of on TV as the accused ones. Of course, these people have been tortured before so they say that they have done this and this. Everything is staged like a theater play," Duve said.

Duve also gave his assessment of the way the Turkmen government is running the country. "We are dealing with a completely totalitarian system. We are not only dealing with a dictatorship. That's to say we have exactly the same development as we had with [Josef] Stalin, and in a way with [Adolph] Hitler. It means you have to identify one [common] enemy, the foreign blood, the non-Turkmen blood. That's why [Niyazov] has already a lot of enemies within the country. He speaks of 'diluted blood.' Secondly you have to get rid of the 'traitors' in the upper levels of power. Stalin did the same," Duve said.

Duve had called for sending a special rapporteur to Turkmenistan to find out the grounds for the charges and to determine whether this whole incident could have been staged. That, apparently, is not what Niyazov wants. He has therefore sent Meredov to try to convince the OSCE there is no need to carry out Duve's recommendations.

Ordering Prosecutor-General Gurbanbiby Atajanova to publish a book on the matter would then seem to be just another step in the attempt to convince Turkmenistan's critics that the assassination attempt was real and the investigation and court room proceedings that followed were impartial. Niyazov is quoted as saying yesterday, "call this book 'Traitors to the Homeland' and let it be passed down from generation to generation."

All this may not be enough. The OSCE is not the only group to criticize Turkmenistan for its actions in the wake of the failed assassination attempt. Pressure has also come from the U.S. government, numerous human rights organizations, and the Brussels-based International Crisis Group -- which last week released a 40-page report comparing Niyazov to Iraq's Saddam Hussein and calling Turkmenistan "an increasingly dysfunctional state." (RFE/RL)