Tue, 27 Oct 2020

Turkmen activist Dursoltan Taganova has been released from a deportation center in Turkey.

Taganova confirmed her release late on October 12 to the Chronicle of Turkmenistan.

The 29-year-old activist was among dozens of other Turkmen, mostly migrant workers, arrested in Istanbul in July on charges of violating coronavirus restrictions.

They were arrested just hours before they planned to hold a rally in front of the Turkmen Consulate in Istanbul to criticize the Turkmen government's inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic and to call for President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's resignation.

Most detainees were released about five hours later.

Taganova's release came after a group of 11 human rights organizations urged Turkish authorities not deport her, saying she will face arbitrary arrest and torture if she is returned to Turkmenistan.

In a statement on October 12, the groups urged Turkey's international partners to 'call on Ankara to uphold its international obligations and not deport Taganova, who is seeking asylum in Turkey,' Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

'Turkmenistan is known to severely harass and punish peaceful critics of the government,' HRW's Hugh Williamson said.

'To return Dursoltan Taganova to Turkmenistan would place her at grave risk of persecution and torture. Turkey should abide by its international obligations not to send her anywhere she could face ill-treatment.'

The 11 groups are the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Crude Accountability, the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, the Democratic Civil Union of Turkmenistan, Freedom Files, Human Rights Watch, the Institute of Human Rights, the Memorial Human Rights Center, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights.

Taganova's lawyer told HRW that she was the only Turkmen citizen whom Turkish authorities kept in custody. The lawyer said the consulate's written complaint specifically mentioned Taganova.

The authorities alleged that she and four other Turkmen citizens had interfered with the work of the diplomats and threatened violence against them.

Since June, protests against Berdymukhammedov have been staged by Turkmen citizens residing in Turkey, the United States, and Northern Cyprus.

Government critics and human rights groups say Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the restrictive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

With reporting by the Chronicle of Turkmenistan

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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