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Rights Groups Urge Ankara Not To Deport Turkmen Activist, Fearing She'll Be Tortured

Since June, protests against the government have been staged by Turkmen citizens residing in Turkey, the United States, and Northern Cyprus.

A group of 11 human rights organizations has urged the Turkish authorities not deport activist Dursoltan Taganova, saying she will face arbitrary arrest and torture if she is returned to Turkmenistan.

In a statement on October 12, the groups urge Turkey's international partners to "call on Ankara to uphold its international obligations and not deport Taganova, who is seeking asylum in Turkey," Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

"Turkmenistan is known to severely harass and punish peaceful critics of the government," said Hugh Williamson, HRW's Europe and Central Asia director.

Dursoltan Taganova (file photo)
Dursoltan Taganova (file photo)

"To return Dursoltan Taganova to Turkmenistan would place her at grave risk of persecution and torture. Turkey should abide by its international obligations not to send her anywhere she could face ill-treatment."

The 11 groups 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 Institute of Human Rights, the Memorial Human Rights Center, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights.

The 29-year-old activist was among dozens of other Turkmen activists, mostly migrant workers, arrested in Istanbul in July on charges of violating coronavirus restrictions. The move came just hours before they planned to hold a rally in front of the Turkmen Consulate in Istanbul to criticize the Turkmen government's inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic and to call for President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's resignation.

Most detainees were released about five hours later.

Taganova’s lawyer told HRW that she was the only Turkmen citizen whom Turkish authorities kept in custody. The lawyer said the consulate's written complaint specifically mentioned Taganova. The authorities alleged that she and four other Turkmen citizens had interfered with the work of Turkmen diplomats and threatened violence against them. She was charged under Turkey's law on demonstrations and public meetings.

Since June, protests against Berdymukhammedov have been staged by Turkmen citizens residing in Turkey, the United States, and Northern Cyprus.

Government critics and human rights groups say 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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