A human rights group says a former Turkmen official has died in prison where he spent 18 years without access to lawyers, medical personnel, and relatives.
The international Prove They Are Alive! campaign cited “reliable sources” as saying that 64-year-old Yazgeldy Gundogdyev had died in prison in the southern city of Tejen on December 28.
Gundogdyev, who was a member of the Soviet Union’s parliament, the Supreme Council, led the international desk in Turkmenistan’s presidential office, and was a regional governor in the Central Asian nation.
He was among dozens of officials who were fired and arrested after what Turkmen authorities said was an assassination attempt against then President Saparmurat Niyazov in November 2002.
In January 2003, Gundogdyev was found guilty of taking part in the plot to kill Niyazov and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The alleged ringleader, then-Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, was sentenced to life in prison and was widely believed to have been held along with others convicted in the case in Ovadan Depe, a notorious prison built in 2002 in the Kara-Kum desert, 50 kilometers northwest of the capital, Ashgabat.
Turkmen officials have never revealed the locations of Shikhmuradov and many other former officials sentenced in the case, and have neither confirmed nor denied reports of Shikhmuradov’s death.
According to Prove They Are Alive!, Gundogdyev was held in Ovadan Depe for a while, though his exact whereabouts have been unknown since 2007.
The group says that Gundogdyev’s death, as well as the deaths of other once-influential officials and politicians who have been jailed and then disappeared, are the results of cruel and inhumane incarceration.
“The situation proves consistent covert attempts by the authorities of Turkmenistan to destroy key political figures and erase the memories of them. According to media reports and information from relatives, at least 12 people from the list of the Prove They Are Alive! have died in custody in the past five years. The fate of many other people who are without any contact with their relatives, without access to lawyers and adequate medical assistance, remains unknown,” the rights group said in its statement.
Government critics and human rights groups say Turkmenistan’s current President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the restrictive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Niyazov in 2006.