RFE/RL Urges Release Of Turkmen Journalist Nepeskuliev

RFE/RL is calling for the release of a Turkmen journalist who was imprisoned two years ago on charges that human rights groups and a UN panel have denounced as politically motivated.

Saparmamed Nepeskuliev disappeared on July 7, 2015, and was held incommunicado for weeks before a court in tightly controlled Turkmenistan found him guilty of narcotics charges that rights groups say were trumped up in retaliation for his reporting.

"Saparmamed is being punished for his journalism," RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said on July 11. "He was convicted without a lawyer or public trial on charges that we believe are entirely fabricated, and he should be released immediately."

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention designated Nepeskuliev's detention as "arbitrary" in December 2015, declaring that "he has been deprived of liberty for having peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression."

In July 2016, seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov calling Nepeskuliev's imprisonment "unlawful" and urging his immediate release.

In video reports for RFE/RL, Nepeskuliev documented decrepit infrastructure and economic inequality in western Turkmenistan.

Other RFE/RL reporters and contributors in Turkmenistan have faced physical attacks, threats, and prosecution on charges supporters say are groundless.

Turkmenistan is ranked "not free" in Freedom House's 2017 press-freedom survey, scoring at the bottom of the scale with 98 points out of 100, on par with North Korea.