Monday, May 23, 2005
Amnesty appeal for Turkmenistan prisoner
Amnesty International is concerned about the continued imprisonment following a secret trial last year of former Mufti Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah. There are allegations that he was targeted for expressing dissent and because of his ethnic origin as an Uzbek.
Exactly one year ago, in the night from 23 to 24 May 2004, officers of the Interior Ministry reportedly beat Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah in the maximum-security prison in the Caspian port town of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk). According to the international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah "suffered significantly". To Amnesty International's knowledge, the authorities have not investigated the allegations and none of the perpetrators has been brought to justice.
On 2 March 2004 Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah was sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment on treason charges by Azatlyk district court in Ashgabat in a secret trial with the first five years to be served in a maximum-security prison. He was accused of involvement in the alleged assassination attempt on President Niyazov in November 2002. The President had removed Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah from his post as chief mufti and deputy chair of the Gengeshi (Council) for Religious Affairs in January 2003.
There are allegations that the charges against Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah were fabricated and that he was targeted for expressing dissent. For example, he was believed to have repeatedly objected to the extensive use of the President's book Rukhnama [Book of the Soul] in mosques. In addition, Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah did not advocate the imposition of the death penalty on the suspects in the November 2002 alleged assassination attempt on the President while other senior officials called for the reintroduction of the death penalty. Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah's expression of his opinion on this issue, before President Niyazov himself decided that the death penalty would not be reintroduced, could have been perceived as undermining the President's authority. There were also allegations that one of the reasons for targeting him was his Uzbek ethnicity. The government launched a new wave of pressure on ethnic minorities at the end of October 2003, removing ethnic minorities from particularly influential posts and replacing them with ethnic Turkmen.
Amnesty's page includes instructions for writing letters on behalf of Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah, as well as writing to him directly.