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Rights Watchdog Calls On Turkmenistan To Release Popular Entertainer Imprisoned For Being Gay

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says a popular entertainer and his associates in Turkmenistan have been handed prison terms for being gay and called on authorities to "immediately dismiss" all charges against the men.

HRW said the showman was sentenced to 2 years in prison on May 7 after a court found him guilty of sodomy.

In April, an independent media outlet quoted several sources in Ashgabat as saying that an actor and showman, whose identity was not disclosed, was arrested along with about a dozen other people, including his partner, in late March.

According to that report, some of those arrested were later released after they paid bribes.

A source in Ashgabat confirmed to RFE/RL at the time that the man was under arrest, but it was impossible to obtain any clarification of the situation from the authorities.

The former Soviet republic's criminal code envisions up to 2 years in prison for homosexual relations.

The Turkmen government -- which controls all media, most of the economy, and enforces many social rules on its citizens -- is considered among the most repressive in the world and doesn't tolerate public criticism or free speech.

The issue is a social taboo and antigay sentiment among many Turkmens is very strong.

HRW said that it "documented a 2013 case in Turkmenistan, where medical staff collaborated with law enforcement officials to conduct an anal exam on an 18-year-old man accused of homosexual conduct," adding that "the case raises the possibility that forced anal examinations have been or are being used against others charged with sodomy in Turkmenistan."

"Such examinations have no medical justification, are cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and may amount to torture. They violate the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both ratified by Turkmenistan," the statement says.

Last year, a young cardiologist in Ashgabat, Kasymberdy Garayev, and members of his family faced pressure after he came out as gay and spoke about problems faced by gays in Turkmenistan to RFE/RL.

In 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Committee flagged criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct as “unjustifiable” and urged the Turkmen government to repeal it.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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