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Rights Groups Urge Turkmen President To Free Political Prisoners

Rights activist Annakurban Amanklychev, one of the prisoners jailed for his media work
Eight human rights organizations have sent an open letter to Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov urging him to release prisoners of conscience as part of an amnesty expected to be announced on February 19, Turkmenistan's national flag day.

The head of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Tajigul Begmedova, told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service that the group has received more than 5,000 letters in support of imprisoned rights activists Sapardurdy Khadjiyev and Annakurban Amanklychev.

The two were sentenced to seven years in prison in 2006 on what human rights groups said were trumped-up charges, which came after the two activists helped a French journalist make a TV documentary about Turkmenistan.

Begmedova said the NGOs want to once again remind Berdymukhammedov of their expectations for real improvements in the country's human rights situation.

Turkmenistan is ranked 171 out of 173 countries in the latest press freedom index released by rights group Reporters Without Borders.