Turkmen President Pardons More Than 800 Prisoners

State media in Turkmenistan are reporting that 828 prisoners have been pardoned by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

Media outlets quote Berdymukhammedov as saying the amnesty was linked to the Central Asian country's Flag Day holiday marked on February 19.

According to the reports, Berdymukhammedov signed the amnesty decree on February 12 "following a long-established noble tradition" at the joint session of the cabinet and the State Security Council.

Berdymukhammedov's predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, issued similar amnesty decrees once a year during the holy month of Ramadan.

Berdymukhammedov -- an authoritarian ruler who controls all aspects of Turkmen society -- has issued such decrees several times a year, usually on the eve of state holidays.

His last clemency, announced in December, pardoned 561 inmates on the eve of Neutrality Day, which is on December 12.

Such clemencies usually do not cover inmates convicted on politically motivated charges.

Based on reporting by Turkmenistan.gov.tm and Interfax