For Immediate Release
February 22, 2013
Washington, DC – Turkmenistan released prisoners of conscience Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev from prison on February 16, 2013.
“For nearly seven years, Mr. Amanklychev and Mr. Khadzhiev were unjustly imprisoned and subjected to cruel prison conditions in Turkmenistan because of their work as independent journalists and human rights advocates,” said Maran Turner, Executive Director of Freedom Now. “We welcome their early release; however, wish that they had not spent so long wrongly accused and imprisoned. We hope that they are home with their families and beginning the long road to recuperation.”
Messrs. Amanklychev and Khadzhiev were arrested in June 2006 while working on a documentary film about then-President Saparmurat Niyazov and Turkmenistan’s failing health and education systems. Along with a third journalist, Ogulsapar Muradova, Messrs. Amanklychev and Khadzhiev were convicted of sham charges in a closed trial lasting only 10 minutes. The men were sentenced to a seven-year prison term. Ms. Muradova died in prison under suspicious circumstances and Messrs. Amanklychev and Khadzhiev were reported to have been denied medical care for serious diseases and other ailments contracted while in prison.
Freedom Now and Hogan Lovells represented Messrs. Amanklychev and Khadzhiev as their international pro bono counsel during their detention. In response to a petition filed by Hogan Lovells, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Turkmenistan was in violation of international law for having arbitrarily imprisoned Messrs. Amanklychev and Khadzhiev as punishment for their human rights advocacy. Freedom Now and Hogan Lovells also engaged in considerable public advocacy on behalf of Messrs. Amanklychev and Khadzhiev in both the United States and European Union. As a result of these efforts, 21 U.S. Senators — led by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) — sent a letter to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for her personal engagement with the Turkmenistan government in seeking the release of Messrs. Amanklychev and Khadzhiev and Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, a political dissident who remains in prison in Turkmenistan.
In response to Messrs. Amanklychev and Khadzhiev’s release, Hogan Lovells partner Craig Lewis said, “While we are relieved that our clients have finally been released, we are deeply disappointed they were compelled to suffer many years of incarceration under harsh conditions for crimes they did not commit.”