As a European Union / Central Asia security summit was taking today place in Paris, Reporters Without Borders activists peacefully occupied Turkmenistan's embassy in Paris for two hours to demand the release of Turkmen journalist Annakurban Amanklychev and human rights activist Sapardurdy Khajiyev, who were arrested in 2006.
They also called on the Turkmen authorities to explain how Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty correspondent Ogulsapar Muradova died in prison in 2006 after being arrested at the same time as Amanklychev and Khajiyev.
French police removed the Reporters Without Borders activists from the embassy at the request of the embassy's staff.
“We demand the immediate release of Amanklychev and Khadjiyev, who have been in prison for the past two years for helping a French TV journalist to make a documentary,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Turkmen authorities must stop hounding journalists and all those who criticise the government's ultra-authoritarian policies.”
Reporters Without Borders also called on the Turkmen official in charge of the country's embassy in Paris to transmit its demands to the government in Ashgabad. Turkmenistan's foreign minister was one of the Central Asian representatives attending the summit.
French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who was hosting the meeting with his Central Asian counterparts, issued a statement saying he had reiterated France's request for the release of Amanklychev and Khajiyev.
Muradova, 58, died from blows she received in the prison where she was serving a six-year sentence for helping the French journalist with the documentary. There has never been a proper investigation into her death despite the international community's many appeals. Like her, Amanklychev and Khajiyev were sentenced to six or seven years in prison at the end of a trial held behind closed doors without any defence lawyers. There has been no news of either of them since the trial.