UN Working Group Concludes Turkmenistan Violated Human Rights Laws In Arresting Lawyer

A UN working group has concluded that Turkmenistan violated international human rights laws when it detained a lawyer who was organizing a pro-democracy rally.

Police in the tightly controlled Central Asian state arrested Pygamberdy Allaberdyev, a lawyer at a state oil company, in September 2020 for "hooliganism" after a man attacked him near a grocery store in the western city of Balkanabat.

Officers from the National Security Ministry immediately took over the case and charged Allaberdyev with having ties with the activists abroad.

He was sentenced later that month to six years in prison after a closed-door, two-hour trial during which he had no legal representation.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last week determined that Allaberdyev was arrested for exercising his freedom of expression and association, according to the human rights group Freedom Now, which is helping Allaberdyev.

"We welcome the Working Group's recognition that Pygamberdy Allaberdyev is wrongfully detained," Freedom Now legal officer Adam Lhedmat said in a May 13 statement.

"Allaberdyev's imprisonment is indicative of Turkmenistan’s intolerance of dissent and its strategy of using fabricated charges to silence its citizens. We call on the Turkmen government to comply with the United Nations' decision and immediately and unconditionally release Allaberdyev."

Prison officials have denied family and legal representatives access to Allaberdyev since his sentencing.

Allaberdyev was accused of having links to Turkmen activists residing abroad who had staged a number of rallies in the United States, Turkey, and Northern Cyprus to protest against constitutional amendments.

Allaberdyev had denied any links to the activists.

The protesters in the United States at the time suspected autocratic leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov of using the constitutional amendments to secure his lifetime presidency and its eventual succession to his son and grandchildren.

Berdymukhammedov's son, Serdar, in March won a presidential election in a unfair contest widely viewed as a formality to the transfer of political power within the family.

It is unclear what, if any, effect the UN working group's decision will have on Allaberdyev’s fate.