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Prisoners of Conscience Released!

Sutton Coldfield Amnesty Group are this week celebrating the news that our adopted Turkmen prisoners of conscience, Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev, have been released.

Human rights defenders Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev, members of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, were released on 16th February after completing their sentence. Their families, and the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation, had been very worried that their sentences would be extended just before their scheduled release.

Amnesty International has spoken to representatives from the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation, who have been in touch with the activists' relatives since their release. Annakurban and Sapardurdy are extremely happy at the moment.  The first thing they are planning to do is to undergo full medical examinations with a view to restoring their health, which seriously deteriorated while in prison due to the harsh prison conditions in Turkmenistan. They then plan to look for work and reflect on whether or not to continue with their civil activities.

The Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation expressed gratitude to Amnesty International and its activists, saying: “Many thanks to the entire organization for all the care and attention you have paid to the case. Thank you for constantly reminding the Turkmenistani authorities about their human rights obligations and about the boys [Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev]. It is our common victory that these boys came out of prison alive. The boys are very grateful.”

Annakurban and Sapardurdy were detained in June 2006 and, following an unfair trial, were sentenced to between six and seven years' imprisonment for 'illegal acquisition, possession or sale of amunition or firearms'. Amnesty believes this charge was fabricated to punish them for their human rights activities.

They were detained and sentenced along with fellow activist and member of the Turkmen Helsinki Federation, Ogulsapar Muradova. In September 2006, Ogulsapar Muraodova's family were told she had died in custody. Relatives reported seeing 'marks on her neck' and a 'huge wound on her forehead'. Amnesty is concerned she may have been tortured in detention.

Sutton Coldfield Amnesty Group had been campaigning for the release of Annakurban and Sapardurdy since April 2012. While welcoming their release, we are continuing to call on the Turkmen authorities to ensure a thorough, promt and independent investigation is conducted into the cause and circumstances of Ogulsapar's death, keeping her relatives informed of all steps in the investigation and making the results public.

We are also continuing to call for human rights defenders in Turkmenistan to be allowed to continue their work free from harassment of them and their families.

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