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Weeks before constitutional reform, Turkmen authorities are neutralizing dissidents

Akmukhamed Baykhanov. Photo: chrono-tm.org

On Sept 14, the Elders’ Council of Turkmenistan is supposed to adopt a new constitution.

The council was convoked by Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and comprises MPs from all over the country.

Over the last two years, the Turkmen authorities have been drafting a new constitution. In February, they made it public. The key points there are that the Turkmen President can now stay in power for seven rather than five years and that there is no more age limit for a person seeking presidency.

Experts have no doubts that the new constitution will be adopted but the authorities are afraid of provocations both inside and outside the country. For this purpose, they are taking preventive measures. “While Turkmenistan is getting ready for a constitutional reform and a presidential election, the Turkmen special forces are acting against dissidents,” say representatives of the Prove They Are Alive! Campaign.

On Aug 18, a group of unknown people attacked former Turkmen political prisoner Akmukhamed Baykhanov in Balashikha, Russia. Baykhanov says that it was a reaction to his last book “Lost Souls of Ovadan-depe,” memoirs where Baykhanov describes prisons in Turkmenistan, particularly, the secret jail of Ovadan-depe. The book was published in Russia in early July in 2,000 copies.

Earlier the Turkmen authorities asked their Belorussian colleagues to detain Turkmen political emigrant Chary Annamuradov, who lives in Sweden but was in Minsk on holidays with his 16-year-old daughter. Annamuradov’s relatives say that both were kept behind bars for four hours. Then the girl was set free, while Annamuradov was arrested. The Turkmen authorities have wanted him since 20069 for complicity in a fraud case.

The Prove They Are Alive! Campaign is concerned as the Turkmen authorities are forcing Turkmen dissidents into silence. In the meantime, they are toughening control on the border and are cracking down on local oppositionists.

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