Turkmen Man Wanted In Ashgabat Released From Russian Custody

By RFE/RL's Turkmen Service

Russian authorities have released from custody a Turkmen citizen who is wanted in Ashgabat on controversial "extremism" charges.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights center said on January 26 that Ahmet Jumadurdyev was released from police custody overnight in the city of St. Petersburg.

Lawyer Olga Tseitlina told RFE/RL on January 25 that police in St. Petersburg had detained Jumadurdyev the previous day "to check his documents."

Memorial said the decision to release Jumadurdyev was made by the city's prosecutors because he had filed an official request with Russian authorities for asylum, and legally appealed against the Federal Security Service's decision to bar him from the country.

It also noted that the European Court of Human Rights ruled in October 2021 that Jumadurdyev cannot be deported to Turkmenistan until it makes a final ruling on his case.

Jumadurdyev studied at a university in the town of Ivangorod near St. Petersburg from 2013 to 2017.

In 2017, authorities in Turkmenistan added him to their wanted list, accusing him of "religious extremism" after Jumadurdyev started writing in social networks about Turkmen citizens who had received lengthy prison terms after returning to the Central Asian country from Russia.

Jumadurdyev, who rejects all the accusations by Turkmen authorities, was arrested in St. Peterburg at Ashgabat's request and spent one year in a detention center. His cousin was sentenced to 25 years in prison in Turkmenistan in an "extremism case."

Eleven Turkmen citizens who studied in Russian universities were added to the wanted list at the time. Two of them were sentenced to 15 years in prison after they came back home from Russia.

In 2019, Russian authorities rejected Jumadurdyev's claim for refugee status. His request to get asylum in Estonia was also rejected by that country's authorities. Last summer, Jumadurdyev, tried to illegally cross the border between Russia and Estonia, but he was stopped by Estonian border guards and sent back to Russia.

The FSB then banned his presence in the country until July 1, 2055, a move he has appealed.