Washington, D.C. – The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that the Government of Turkmenistan violated international human rights law by detaining lawyer Pygamberdy Allaberdyev. Responding to a legal petition filed by Freedom Now and the international law firm Vinson & Elkins. In the opinion, the Working Group stated it was “convinced that the true reason for Mr. Allaberdyev’s arrest and detention was his peaceful exercise of the freedom of expression and freedom of association as evidenced by the fabricated circumstances of his arrest and the trial as well as the very harsh penalty imposed by the court.”

“We welcome the Working Group’s recognition that Pygamberdy Allaberdyev is wrongfully detained,” said Freedom Now Legal Officer Adam Lhedmat. “Allaberdyev’s imprisonment is indicative of Turkmenistan’s intolerance of dissent and its strategy of using fabricated charges to silence its citizens. We call on the Turkmen government to comply with the United Nations’ decision and immediately and unconditionally release Allaberdyev.”

Prior to his arrest, Allaberdyev worked for the Nebitdagneft department of the Ministry of Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan. In the months leading up to his arrest, he began to make his views public.

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.

Since his conviction, Allaberdyev has been held incommunicado. Prison authorities have consistently denied requests for his family to contact him.