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Turkmen Opposition Groups Abroad Demand Investigation Into Teen Athlete's Killing


Suleiman Tursunbaev

Turkmen opposition groups abroad have announced protests to demand authorities in Turkmenistan investigate the death of a 14-year-old judoka, who they claim was killed for refusing to throw a fight.

The Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan movement and the Turkmen Coordination Council opposition group announced on YouTube on February 15 that they plan to hold several protests after Suleiman Tursunbaev's death.

On February 14, Tursunbaev's parents issued a statement on YouTube saying their son was kidnapped by unidentified people in the town of Baherden immediately after winning a judo competition which he had been ordered to lose by the tournament's organizers.

The boy was later found severely beaten and unconscious, and died in hospital several days afterwards.

According to a report by Turkmen News, Tursunbaev's coach was also severely beaten after the end of the tournament.

The parents appealed to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to find and punish their son's killers.

The Turkmen News opposition online newspaper reported that organizers had ordered the teenager to lose the final to an opponent from a military school, which he refused to do and instead went ahead and won the tournament.

The opposition groups claim that the boy might have been killed by local officials in retaliation for his refusal to throw the fight.

There was no immediate reaction from the tournament organizers to the accusations.

The Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan and the Turkmen Coordination Council will hold an online protest via Zoom on February 16 and will stage single-person pickets on Istanbul's Taksim Square on February 19 demanding a fair investigation into the death.

On February 20, the groups will hold a minute of silence at noon, Ashgabat time, to honor Tursunbaev.

Turkmen News quoted the two opposition groups' representatives as saying that they will also hold a rally outside the UN building in New York on February 19.

With reporting by Turkmen News
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