Turkmen Exile Group Says Activists Arrested Over Anti-Government Leaflets

By RFE/RL's Turkmen Service

A foreign-based Turkmen opposition group says security officers in that Central Asian nation have arrested at least two activists over leaflets calling for the resignation of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

Murat Gurbanov, the leader of the Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan (DWT), which was founded abroad to avoid repressive policies in the authoritarian former Soviet republic, said in a video statement on YouTube on March 30 that an unspecified number of activist detentions included those of two men: Didar Ashirov and Dovran Gylyjov.

Gurbanov condemned the arrests, saying the distribution of leaflets criticizing the government is not a crime in Turkmenistan.

The anti-Berdymukhammedov leaflets and posters had reportedly appeared in the former Soviet republic’s capital, Ashgabat, and other towns and cities in recent weeks.

RFE/RL correspondents in the northeastern Lebap region reported that police and security forces in the regional capital, Turkmenabat, began interrogating local residents involved in printing businesses in an effort to learn where the posters and leaflets had been printed.

Meanwhile, in several cities across the country, local authorities have begun installing additional security cameras to monitor streets amid the anti-leaflet campaign.

Turkmenistan has been facing rising economic problems.

Despite being rich in natural gas, the country has faced shortages of cash, food, and other necessities in recent years.

Berdymukhammedov has kept a tight lid on dissent and made few changes in the restrictive country since he came to power following the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

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