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Saparmamed Nepeskuliev

A Turkmen correspondent for RFE/RL has left Turkmenistan after serving a three-year prison term on drug charges that human rights groups and a UN panel denounced as politically motivated.

Turkmen journalist and RFE/RL contributor Saparmamed Nepeskuliev reportedly flew from Turkmenbashi to Istanbul on March 23 after obtaining an exit visa from Turkmenistan’s government two days earlier.

Nepeskuliev was released from prison on May 19, 2018, after serving his full sentence on charges of possessing a medical drug, tramadol, that is banned in Turkmenistan.

Rights groups have accused authorities in Turkmenistan of planting the drugs in a hotel room where he was staying while he was away working on a story.

They say the charges against him were fabricated in retaliation for his reporting.

Nepeskuliev disappeared on July 7, 2015, and was held incommunicado for weeks before a court in Turkmenistan found him guilty on the narcotics charges.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention designated Nepeskuliev’s detention as "arbitrary" in December 2015, saying that the journalist had been "deprived of liberty for having peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression."

In July 2016, seven U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov calling Nepeskuliev’s imprisonment "unlawful" and urging his immediate release.

In video reports for RFE/RL, Nepeskuliev documented decaying infrastructure and economic inequality in western Turkmenistan.

Other RFE/RL reporters and contributors in Turkmenistan have faced physical attacks, threats, and prosecution on charges that critics say are groundless.

With reporting by
Opposition Rally Marks Freedom Day In Belarus
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MINSK -- Belarusian opposition politician Zmitser Dashkevich, the organizer of a March 24 rally in Minsk and leader of the unregistered Young Front political movement, reportedly has been detained by police in the Belarusian capital.

Nasta Dashkevich, the opposition leader's wife, told RFE/RL that plainclothes police detained him and "took him away" shortly after he addressed a crowd of about 2,000 people at the rally and described Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as a "self-proclaimed leader."

Dashkevich's whereabouts remained unclear late on March 24 and police would not confirm whether they were holding him in custody.

However, another rally organizer and opposition leader, Vital Rymashevski of the unregistered Belarusian Christian Democrats, told RFE/RL that police had denied to him that Dashkevich was in the custody of authorities.

Dmitry Dashkevich (file photo)
Dmitry Dashkevich (file photo)

Rymashevski himself was briefly detained during the March 24 but later released.

The Minsk rally was staged on the eve of the 101st anniversary of the creation of the short-lived Belarusian People's Republic -- an attempt to form an independent Belarusian state in the chaotic final months of World War I.

The anniversary has become a traditional rally day for opponents of Lukashenka -- who has repeatedly cracked down on opposition leaders, their supporters, and independent news media during his quarter-century in power in the former Soviet republic.

With reporting by AP

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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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