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Turkmen Ex-Minister Locked Up for "Treatment"

By News Briefing Central Asia

A former minister in Turkmenistan who criticised the one-party system has been arrested and sent off for forcible medical treatment. 

The authorities say Geldymyrat Nurmuhammedov, 60, was arrested on October 5 for using narcotics, and has been sent to a drug treatment centre in the remote southeastern town of Tejen.

People who know him, like exiled opposition leader Nurmuhamed Khanamov say he did not use drugs and his detention is revenge for comments he made last year about Turkmenistan’s system of government.

At the time, President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov was promising to open up the political system to allow more than just one party to exist.

Nurmuhammedov, who served as culture and tourism minister in 1992-95 under Berdymuhammedov’s predecessor Saparmurat Niazov, took the president at his word and decided to set up a political party.

In December last year, he gave an interview to RFE/RL radio’s Turkmen service complaining that it was impossible to get legal status for a new party and describing the official Democratic Party as “an instrument for manipulating elections”.

He was questioned by the Turkmen security service soon after the interview.

According to Khanamov, who heads the opposition Turkmen Republican Party based in Austria, the authorities could not arrest Nurmuhammedov at that point because the president was running for re-election and did not want negative international publicity.

“Now that some time has gone by, they are getting their revenge,” Khanamov said. “They will fill him up with chemicals so that he needs a “cure”. That’s a well-known, common practice in Turkmenistan.”

The Republican Party issued a statement on October 9 condemning the use of healthcare institutions to incarcerate dissidents in Turkmenistan.

This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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