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U.S. Lawmakers Demand Turkmen Prisoner's Release

(RFE/RL) PRAGUE, April 5, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Fifty-four members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are calling on Turkmenistan to release a prisoner of conscience, Gurbandurdy Durdykuliev.

Turkmen authorities placed Durdykuliev in a psychiatric institution in 2004 after he requested permission to hold a rally protesting government policies.

In a statement released in Washington by the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe on April 4, the lawmakers say Durdykuliev was imprisoned for "simply attempting to exercise his right to freedom of expression."

The statement urged his immediate release, and describes Durdykuliev's imprisonment as "unjust" and in flagrant violation of the fundamental freedoms that Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov accepted when he signed a 1992 human rights treaty.

U.S. lawmakers also called on Niyazov's government to stop imprisoning political dissidents in psychiatric hospitals.

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