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Turkmen Environmental Activist Given Five-Year Jail Term

Andrei Zatoka in an undated photograph
Andrei Zatoka in an undated photograph
Prominent Turkmen environmental activist Andrei Zatoka has been sentenced to five years in prison for hooliganism, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

Zatoka, 53, was found guilty in a court in Dashoguz of attacking a man in a market in the northern Turkmen city on October 20.

His supporters say he was attacked by the man and attempted to detain him until police arrived. However, police detained Zatoka instead of the man.

His supporters in Moscow held a protest in front of the Turkmen Embassy on October 27 and again on October 29, demanding his immediate release.

They said they consider Zatoka's case to be politically motivated and connected to his professional activities.

Zatoka, a biologist, has run an environmental-protection group shut down by the government in 2003.

The co-founder of the group, Farid Tukhbatullin, now lives in exile in Europe and monitors human rights abuses in Turkmenistan.

Zatoka was also detained in December 2006 and charged with possessing and dealing with in arms and dangerous substances, which Human Rights Watch said were trumped-up charges.

In January 2007, he was finally released under pressure from the international community when a court granted him a conditional release upon his pledge not to leave the country for three years.

His wife has been living in Russia since that time.