Freedom Now welcomes reports that Turkmen lawyer Pygamberdy Allaberdyev was released from prison on December 10 after more than two years in detention. Allaberdyev was arrested in September 2020 on charges that were an apparent retaliation for his pro-democracy activism. He was released as part of a mass pardon in recognition of a national holiday in Turkmenistan.

“We are grateful that Pygamberdy Allaberdyev has been released and reunited with his family, with whom he was cruelly denied contact with for the entire length of his imprisonment,” said Freedom Now Program Director Karl Horberg. “His wrongful imprisonment was a shameful example of Turkmenistan’s intolerance of dissent and expression critical of the regime. We call on the government to quash Pygamberdy’s politically-motivated conviction, guarantee that he receive reparations for the time spent in wrongful detention, and ensure that he faces no further harassment for exercising his internationally protected rights.”

Prior to his arrest, Allaberdyev worked for the Nebitdagneft department of the Ministry of Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan. On September 5, 2020, Allaberdyev was arrested on hooliganism charges resulting from an incident at a grocery store where he was physically attacked by an unidentified individual. Despite the fact that he did not start the altercation, Allaberdyev was charged, while his assailant was set free.

Allaberdyev’s arrest occurred in the lead-up to a pro-democracy rally that he was organizing. While interrogating Allaberdyev, authorities focused their questions on his connections with activists associated with the rally rather than on the incident at the grocery store.

On September 29, 2020, Allaberdyev was convicted and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for hooliganism. The judgment was handed down after a two-hour trial that was closed to the public. Allaberdyev was not represented by a lawyer during the proceedings as his original lawyer withdrew from the case after apparent government pressure. Allaberdyev was held incommunicado for the length of his imprisonment. Prison authorities consistently denied requests for his family to contact him.

In October 2021, Freedom Now and Vinson & Elkins filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Allaberdyev’s behalf. In April 2022, the Working Group found his detention to be a violation of international law.