Turkmenistan: government critic freed after nine months in a drug rehab center

International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) is relieved that a critic of Turkmenistan’s government has been released after being focibly held in a drug treatment center for nine months, while regretting that he was detained in the first place. As reported in a news release isued by IPHR’s partner Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, Geldimurat Nurmuhammedov was freed in the first week of July and is now at his home in Ashgabat. This step appears to have been the result of international pressure.

Nurmuhammedov was arrested in early October 2012 and forcibly hospitalized in a drug rehabilitation center in the city of Tejen, although he is not known to have had any history of drug abuse. It is believed that this was an act of retaliation against him for challenging the government of President Berdymukhamedov. Nurmuhammedov, who was previously minister for cultural and sports affairs in 1992-95, criticized the political situation in the country in an interview he gave to the Turkmen service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in December 2011. Shortly after that interview, his family’s construction company was closed down under unclear circumstances and surveillance of him was stepped up. Nurmuhammedov is also known to have made attempts to set up a new political party after a first-ever law on political parties was adopted in Turkmenistan in January 2012, creating a legal basis for a multi-party system.

The climate for free speech is extremely repressive in Turkmenistan and anyone who speaks out about government policies are at risk of persecution, including politically motivated arrest and imprisonment.

See also: Joint statement by IPHR, TIHR and other partners on Stifling internet freedoms and dissent in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, November 2012.