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Turkmenistan: Assembly Discusses Sentencing For Shikhmuradov

Ashgabat, 30 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Turkmenistan's former foreign minister could be sentenced to life in prison for plotting to assassinate President Saparmurat Niyazov, whose motorcade came under fire last month in Ashgabat. The 13th annual National Assembly, meeting today in the capital, is discussing sentencing for Boris Shikhmuradov, who yesterday confessed on state television to masterminding a coup attempt. "When we lived in Russia, we took drugs and, while in a state of intoxication, prepared people and recruited mercenaries to carry out a terrorist attack. Being part of a criminal conspiracy, we were making promises to those who agreed to carry out our order, which was to destabilize the situation in Turkmenistan, to undermine the constitutional order, and to carry out an assassination attempt against the president of Turkmenistan."

Prosecutor-General Kuranbibi Atadjanova told the assembly that Shikhmuradov will be charged with organizing a state coup and attempting to kill the president. She said Shikhmuradov could be sentenced to 25 years in prison. The parliament speaker Ovezgeldy Ataev, recommended a life sentence.

Human rights groups have criticized Turkmen authorities' investigation of the attack, citing reports of torture being used.