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11.16.21

Lawmakers sent letter demanding the release of civil rights activists

WASHINGTON – US Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), as well as US Representative Tom Malinowski (D -NJ-7), today sent a letter to President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow urging him to release the detained political prisoners, including journalist Nurgeldi Halykov, doctor Dr Khursanai Ismatullaeva and activist Gulgeldy Annaniyazov.

“We write with interest as Turkmenistan pursues an ambitious program under your administration to join international institutions, including the WTO, and enhance its economy to the world. Such welcome efforts to participate more in the global economy will undoubtedly be reinforced by greater attention to your country’s human rights record ”, lawmakers wrote.

“This year marks the 30th anniversary of the independence of Turkmenistan and next year the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States. As our two countries continue to cooperate on common interests such as trade and security in Central Asia, we believe that resolving these cases would further strengthen our broader relationship ”, they concluded.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

November 16, 2021

Dear President Berdimuhamedow:

We write with interest as Turkmenistan pursues an ambitious program under your administration to join international institutions, including the WTO, and enhance its economy to the world. These welcome efforts to participate more in the global economy will no doubt be reinforced by greater attention to your country’s human rights record. For example, Turkmenistan has garnered considerable positive attention following your release of 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses in May of this year, demonstrating respect for human rights and religious freedom. We hope you will show the same humanitarian gesture with several additional cases, perhaps on the occasion of Neutrality Day.

First, we reiterate our concerns about Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, a prominent activist who has now been detained for over 13 years. Mr. Annaniyazov was arrested in 2008 on his return from Norway and sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment, a sentence which was further extended in 2019. Although we were pleased to learn of Mr. Annaniyazov’s release from prison , he remains in remote and deplorable conditions, and his full and unconditional release seems long overdue.

Second, we understand that freelance journalist Nurgeldi Halykov was arrested for fraud in September 2020 and sentenced to four years in prison. Mr Halykov has a well-established reputation for contributing to independent publications and his arrest the day after the release of a photo of a visiting World Health Organization delegation reinforces the image that Turkmenistan does not do not have freedom of speech. Given his significant contributions to independent publications covering the COVID-19 pandemic, we call for his immediate release.

Finally, we draw your attention to the case of Dr Khursanai Ismatullaeva, a well-regarded doctor who was fired in 2017 after taking time off to deal with a personal health issue. Her arrest and conviction, just a day after her case was discussed in the European Parliament, and with the alleged corruption underlying the case against her, presented a negative image of Turkmenistan to the world. We encourage you to show leniency and grant him immediate release.

This year marks the 30e anniversary of the independence of Turkmenistan, and next year the 30e anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States. As our two countries continue to cooperate on common interests such as trade and security in Central Asia, we believe that resolving these cases would further strengthen our broader relationship.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Truly,

-30-



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