The right to believe, to worship and witness
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TURKMENISTAN: Hare Krishna prisoner of conscience to be moved
The second known religious prisoner of conscience in Turkmenistan, Hare Krishna devotee Cheper Annaniyazova, is to be moved to the country's only women's prison, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. "This is a long way from her home in Ashgabad and will make it difficult for people to visit her," Forum 18 was told. "Besides, it is in a closed border zone and anyone wanting to visit will need a special permit." Annaniyazova was sentenced in November to seven years in jail on three charges, one of which was not made public. The extra sentence imposed in the wake of the accusation was likewise not made public. The judge in Annaniyazova's case refused to give her lawyer a copy of the written verdict, or even to let the lawyer see it, which one source told Forum 18 may have been a deliberate attempt to prevent a legal appeal. It is thought within Turkmenistan that the seven year jail sentence was imposed to intimidate the Hare Krishna community.
Annaniyazova, one of the first people in Turkmenistan to become a Hare Krishna devotee, was accused under three charges, two of which related to illegally crossing the border three years ago when she went to Kazakhstan to live at the Hare Krishna temple in Almaty. The third accusation was, sources told Forum 18, not made public at the trial and the extra sentence imposed in the wake of the accusation was likewise not made public, though the sentence she received exceeds the maximum penalty possible under the known accusations. It is thought within Turkmenistan that the heavy sentence was imposed at the behest of the MSS (Ministry of State Security) secret police, in order to intimidate the Hare Krishna community (see F18News 17 November 2005 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=690).
Turkmen sources point out to Forum 18 that the prosecution claimed Annaniyazova had secretly crossed the border, refusing to acknowledge that on her return journey she had openly flown under her own name from Almaty in Kazakhstan direct to the Turkmen capital Ashgabad. The court would not recognise her documentary evidence of her flight ticket, nor a certificate of a fine levied on departure from Kazakhstan by the police, for overstaying her time in the country without documentation.
Despite a claimed abolition of exit visas, Turkmenistan denies religious believers permission to leave the country and is currently barring two Protestants and another Hare Krishna devotee (see F18News 9 November 2005 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=685).
Sources say the judge at Ashgabad city court has refused to give her lawyer a copy of the written verdict, or even to let the lawyer see it. This has made it impossible for Annaniyazova to appeal against the verdict, as any appeal has to be lodged within ten days of the verdict being presented in court. This period ran out on 27 November. One source told Forum 18 that the refusal to supply the written verdict may have been a deliberate move to prevent any appeal. However, refusal to issue written verdicts is widespread in Turkmenistan.
The exile Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights told Forum 18 that only relatives are allowed to visit prisoners and they must apply for permission through the Interior Ministry. It added that almost the entire northern parts of Turkmenistan are closed border zones, meaning that local people can only invite their relatives and must receive permission from the local administration and police, before the police where the relative lives can issue a permit to visit. The reason for the visit has to be reported.
The address of the labour camp where Annaniyazova is due to be held is: Turkmenistan, Dashoguz, ulica Ilyalinskaya, Zhenskaya Koloniya DZ-K/8.
The Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights reported that in September 2005 there were some 1,950 women crammed into the prison, though this was before the Ramadan prisoner amnesty. In the run-up to the amnesty, the camp was so overcrowded some of the women had to sleep outside or on the floor between bunks. If they paid a bribe they were allowed to sleep in the mortuary. The group said a large camp has grown up outside the prison gates with relatives waiting to be admitted for visits, adding that the one hour that prisoners are supposed to be allowed monthly is often reduced to just twenty minutes.
Annaniyazova is the second currently known religious prisoner of conscience in Turkmenistan. Former chief mufti Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah is serving a 22 year sentence on charges the government has also refused to make public (see F18News 8 March 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=271).
Violence and psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs are said to have been used against previous religious prisoners of conscience (see eg. F18News 25 October 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=438 and 17 February 2005 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=514). (END)
For more background, see Forum 18's Turkmenistan religious freedom survey at http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=672
A printer-friendly map of Turkmenistan is available at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/atlas/index.html?Parent=asia&Rootmap=turkme
22 November 2005
TURKMENISTAN: "Rape these women," police chief orders
Violence by officials against religious minorities appears to be routine in Turkmenistan. Two of the most recent cases known to Forum 18 News Service are assaults on two female Jehovah's Witnesses, Durdygul Ereshova and Annajemal Tuyliyeva, who were beaten by a police chief in the capital, Ashgabad, and threatened with rape. Although they were not raped, they were maltreated for several days before being freed, Tuyliyeva having a ring stolen by police, whilst Ereshova had her passport confiscated and is being threatened with internal deportation to a remote part of Turkmenistan. The duty officer at the police station where these assaults happened – who would not give his name - merely laughed at Forum 18's questions about the maltreatment and put the phone down. As Jehovah's Witnesses commented to Forum 18, "these officers are tolerated and even supported by higher authorities, such as judges, prosecutor's offices, duty police officers, district police officers, and city administration officials."
17 November 2005
TURKMENISTAN: Hare Krishna devotee jailed for seven years
Turkmenistan has today [17 November] jailed a Hare Krishna devotee, Cheper Annaniyazova, for seven years on charges of illegally leaving the country, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Before being sentenced, she was compulsorily detained in a psychiatric hospital. "Cheper tried to get an exit visa to go to Kazakhstan to stay in the temple in Almaty, but was refused," a source close to the Hare Krishna community told Forum 18. "She went anyway, crossing the border to Uzbekistan." Despite a claimed abolition of exit visas, Turkmenistan is to Forum 18's knowledge preventing three religious believers - two Protestants and a Hare Krishna devotee – from leaving the country. Forum 18's source insists that the heavy sentence was imposed at the behest of the MSS secret police to intimidate the Hare Krishna community. Turkmenistan also has the religious prisoner of conscience with the longest jail sentence in the former Soviet Union, former chief mufti Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah who is on a 22 year jail sentence.
9 November 2005
TURKMENISTAN: Border guards ban believers from leaving
Despite the claimed abolition of a requirement for permission to leave Turkmenistan, religious believers are still being denied permission to travel from the country. The latest cases known to Forum 18 News Service are two Protestants and one Hare Krishna devotee, who are being persistenly denied permission to travel. The Protestants were not on the official exit ban list, one source told Forum 18, but were stopped after border guards asked why they were travelling abroad and they said they were going to study the Bible in a neighbouring country. The Hare Krishna devotee, who was intending to visit a temple in Russia and meet fellow devotees, "doesn't know why he's on the ban list", another source told Forum 18. Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, Asma Jahangir, has this year again requested the Turkmen government to be allowed to visit the country – so far in vain. In situ visits are a "crucial aspect of the mandate on freedom of religion and belief", she insisted, expressing concern at Turkmenistan's failure to respond.