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RFE/RL Turkmen Contributor Released From Detention

Sazak Durdymuradov
RFE/RL commentator Sazak Durdymuradov has been released following two weeks of detention in Turkmenistan.

The move came amid growing pressure on Turkmen authorities to release Durdymuradov from a remote psychiatric hospital known as the "Turkmen Gulag."

An Ashgabat correspondent for RFE/RL's Turkmen Service spoke to Durdymuradov's family, who confirmed his return home to the town of Baharden on July 4.

"Yesterday, exactly at the same time he had gone, after two weeks, my father returned home," Durdymuradov's son, Atajan, told RFE/RL. "His health is very good. My father thanks all human rights organizations and wishes them success in their work."

Durdymuradov, a soft-spoken history teacher, had been working for two months as a nonpaid contributor to RFE/RL's Turkmenistan broadcasts when secret police seized him from his home on June 20.

According to information received by RFE/RL, Durdymuradov was severely beaten and tortured with electroshock after refusing to sign a letter pledging never again to take part in RFE/RL broadcasts.

He was then transferred to a remote psychiatric hospital in the eastern region of Lebap, a facility notorious for holding critics of the Turkmen regime.

International human rights groups, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have condemned Durdymuradov's arrest and ill treatment, and called for his immediate release.

The U.S. State Department had also expressed concern about Durdymuradov's case, saying it was "deeply troubled" by his detention and physical abuse. Spokesman Tom Casey said on June 28 that "any attempt to threaten journalists is an unacceptable affront to human rights."

In a report issued on June 23, Amnesty International said Turkmen authorities regularly target independent journalists, including RFE/RL correspondents, in an attempt to silence independent voices.