Annakurban Amanklychev & Sapardurdy Khadzhiev

Date of Birth: February 7, 1971 and August 15, 1959
Occupation: Journalists
Arrested: June 16 and 18, 2006
Charges: Illegal possession of munitions
Sentence: Seven years
Released: February 16,2013

Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev are independent journalists and human rights advocates in Turkmenistan. They were arrested in 2006 and convicted on fabricated charges for possession of illegal munitions and sentenced to seven years in prison. On February 16, 2013, Amanklychev and Khadzhiev were released early from prison after nearly seven years in detention.

Amanklychev and Khadzhiev were independent journalists and worked with foreign media outlets, such as the BBC and Galaxie Presse. They were also members of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation, a human rights organization based in Bulgaria that publicizes human rights violations in Turkmenistan.

Immediately prior to their arrest, Amanklychev and Khadzhiev worked on a documentary exploring then-President Niyazov’s cult of personality. The documentary also addressed the failing Turkmen health and education systems.

National security officials arrested Amanklychev and Khadzhiev on June 16, 2006, and June 18, 2006, respectively. At the time of their arrest, they were accused publicly by the Minister of National Security of “trying to collect defamatory information about Turkmenistan and cause discontent among people.” Yet, after several weeks of severe mistreatment in prison, they were charged with possession of illegal munitions. They then received a “trial” that lasted less than ten minutes. Soldiers prevented relatives and members of the public from entering the courtroom. Despite a lack of evidence, the two journalists were convicted for possession of illegal munitions and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Amanklychev and Khadzhiev were incarcerated at the Turkmenbashi high-security prison in the Caspian Sea desert area, known for extreme hot and cold temperatures. The conditions are very poor. There are credible reports that Amanklychev and Khadzhiev suffered from torture, forced drug injections, and extreme heat, thirst, and hunger while in detention. A third journalist, Ogulsapar Murdova, who was tried with Amanklychev and Khadzhiev, died in custody three weeks after the trial, likely from torture. Freedom Now raised such issues before the Human Rights Committee and the Committee Against Torture.

Freedom Now and Hogan Lovells submitted a petitions to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Amanklychev and Khadzhiev in February 2010. The Working Group determined in August 2010 that the detention of the two men violated international law.

Twenty-one U.S. Senators called on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help facilitate the release of Amanklychev and Khadzhiev in May 2010.

Freedom Now sought to educate policymakers on the plight of the journalists by publishing op-eds in Eurasianet and European Voice.

On February 16, 2013, Amanklychev and Khadzhiev were released early from detention. Freedom Now represented the two men as their international pro bono legal counsel along with the international law firm Hogan Lovells US LLP.

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