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Monday, September 05, 2005

 

Turkmen activists' families threatened

From Reuters AlertNet:

Rights activists living outside Turkmenistan say the Turkmen government has been intimidating their relatives and friends in Turkmenistan because of their own efforts from abroad to highlight the desert nation's poor human rights record.

"There has been systematic pressure on us since we established the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation [THF] in 2003," Tajigul Begmedova, head of THF, said on Wednesday from the Bulgarian resort city of Varna where the rights group is based. According to Begmedova, the Turkmen authorities have been harassing her relatives, who still live in her homeland, since THF was first established.

"My father was beaten by the police and sent into internal exile in the north of the country," Begmedova said. "He has heart problems and he needs to go to [the capital] Ashgabat for treatment but the authorities won't allow him to do that. Moreover, he contracted tuberculosis but they are not doing anything for his treatment," she alleged. She also claimed that her sister had been incarcerated on trumped-up charges and is now serving an eight-year prison sentence.

Begmedova is not the only activist to make such claims. Pressure on dissenters and their associates or families has long been a common factor in Turkmenistan according to Farid Tukhbatulin. He heads the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, another Turkmen rights group.

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