Ashgabat, 29 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Turkmenistan's former foreign minister today appeared to confess to a coup attempt against President Saparmurat Niyazov (pictured). Boris Shikhmuradov said on television that he was part of "a criminal group" which sought to take power. He said that "we took drugs and recruited mercenaries to commit terrorist attacks." Shikhmuradov appealed to other members of the "criminal group" to stop their activities.
Douglas Davidson, the U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, this month called for an investigation into the events in Turkmenistan, saying there were reports that numerous confessions -- most broadcast on television -- had been extracted by torture. Shikhmuradov's confession was the latest in a series of televised confessions by people accused of involvement in a plot against Niyazov, whose motorcade came under fire last month on the streets of Ashgabat.
Shikhmuradov, a former foreign minister and ambassador to China, publicly broke with Niyazov's administration in 2001, pronouncing himself an opposition leader. He initially spent some time in Russia before continuing a life of exile in several countries.