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Human Rights Watchdogs Urge Turkmenistan To Release Lawyer Allaberdyev

The lawyer is accused of having links to Turkmen activists residing abroad who have staged anti-government rallies in the United States, Turkey, and Northern Cyprus (above).

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says 10 human rights organizations have urged the Turkmen authorities to "immediately and unconditionally release" Pygambergeldy Allaberdyev, a lawyer "imprisoned on bogus charges that appear to be in retaliation for his alleged ties to activists abroad.

In its October 22 statement, HRW said the authorities of Turkmenistan "should quash" Allaberdyev's conviction.

Allaberdyev, a lawyer with a government oil- and gas-production office in the western city of Balkanabat, was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of hooliganism and intentional infliction of moderate bodily harm.

"The trial and charges against Allaberdyev, and the surrounding circumstances, clearly suggest that the case is political," said Rachel Denber, HRW's deputy Europe and Central Asia director.

"The authorities should release him immediately and annul his conviction," she added.

The 10 groups that demanded Allaberdyev's release are the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Crude Accountability, the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, the Democratic Civil Union of Turkmenistan, Freedom Files, HRW, the Memorial Human Rights Center, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights.

The Moscow-based Memorial human rights center and the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation said earlier that the 48-year-old Allaberdyev was arrested on September 7 and accused of having links to Turkmen activists residing abroad who recently staged a number of rallies in the United States, Turkey, and Northern Cyprus to protest against constitutional amendments in the tightly controlled Central Asian state.

Police detained Allaberdyev after a man attacked him near a grocery store in Balkanabat and accused him of hooliganism.

But sources told the human rights groups that later, an officer from the National Security Ministry interrogated Allaberdyev about his alleged connections with activists involved in the Turkmen protest movement abroad.

Allaberdyev denied all the allegations.

Government critics and human rights groups say Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the restrictive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

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