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Turkmenistan: Shikhmuradov Sentenced To Life In Prison

Ashgabat, 30 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Former Turkmen Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov has been sentenced to life in prison for plotting to kill President Saparmurat Niyazov, whose motorcade came under fire last month. Niyazov announced the sentence on state television today. He said demands that Shikhmuradov be executed had been rejected, saying only Allah can decide such a punishment.

The life sentences for Shikhmuradov and two alleged accomplices were approved by the National Assembly, the country's highest legislative body, at a session in Ashgabat today.

Shikhmuradov publicly broke with Niyazov's administration in 2001, pronouncing himself an opposition leader and living in exile. He was shown on state television confessing 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."

Shikhmuradov said he was making his confession voluntarily.

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