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Outspoken Critic Of Turkmen Government Released From Deportation Center In Istanbul

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

A Turkmen activist and outspoken critic of the tightly controlled Central Asian state's government has been released from a deportation center in Istanbul, where she is based.

Dursoltan Taganova's lawyers told a correspondent in Istanbul for the online magazine Chronicles Of Turkmenistan that she was released on September 29.

It was not immediately clear if Taganova still faces deportation.

On September 27, the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center said that Taganova was being held at a deportation center in Istanbul amid concerns she could face arbitrary arrest and torture if she was returned to Turkmenistan.

Turkish police reportedly arrived at her home early on September 26. Taganova was not there, but the officers handed her roommate an order calling on Taganova to come to the police station to "sign documents."

When she arrived at the station, Taganova was detained and sent to a deportation center.

In July 2020, Taganova and dozens of other Turkmen were detained when they tried to hold a rally in front of Turkmenistan's Consulate in Istanbul to criticize authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's government.

Most of the detainees were released hours later, but Taganova was held in custody as Turkish authorities sought to deport her back to Turkmenistan.

She was released in October 2020 after 11 human rights organizations urged the Turkish authorities not to follow through with the deportation, saying she would face arbitrary arrest and torture if she was returned to Turkmenistan.

In April this year, Taganova said she had been summoned to Turkish immigration, where she was warned she might face problems with her residency unless she stopped her political activities.

Turkmenistan is one of the most repressive countries in the world, with Berdymukhammedov ruling with an iron fist and allowing little dissent since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

Dozens of Turkmen activists residing abroad held protests near the United Nations headquarters in New York and Geneva on September 28-29, calling on the international community to pay more attention to the situation regarding human rights and civil freedoms in Turkmenistan.

Similar protests against Berdymukhammedov were staged for several months last year by Turkmen citizens residing in Turkey, the United States, and Northern Cyprus.

Memorial said there were also reports that other activists in the Turkmen protest movement may soon face deportation from Turkey. Some activists have reported increasing pressure on their relatives inside Turkmenistan.