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Rights Group Urges Release Of Turkmen Activists

(RFE/RL) June 21, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on authorities in Turkmenistan to release immediately seven Turkmen citizens arrested and subsequently accused of seeking to destabilize the government.

HRW expressed concern that the three activists, and four relatives who have been detained, are at risk of torture and ill treatment, according to a statement posted on the group's official website.

Holly Cartner, the head of HRW's Europe and Central Asian division, said in the statement that the Turkmen government has detained these individuals with the sole purpose of "silencing dissent."

Ogulsapar Muradova, a freelance reporter for RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, and two activists of the Bulgarian-based Turkmen Helsinki Foundation (THF) are among those arrested.

Authorities have also implicated foreign envoys in the purported plot, including a French Embassy official and an Organization for Security and Stability in Europe (OSCE) representative, along with British nationals.

Turkmen National Security Minister Geldymukhammed Ashirmukhammedov suggested in a nationally televised broadcasts on June 19 that exiled opposition figures were masterminding the effort to destabilize the government of strongman President Saparmurat Niyazov.

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Central Asia In Focus

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