New York, NY (CPJ)—Turkmen authorities should release radio journalist Khudayberdy Allashov and cease retaliating against journalists with trumped-up charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police in the Dashoguz region of northern Turkmenistan on December 3 arrested Allashov, a contributor to the U.S.-government-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Turkmen service, and charged him with possessing a banned substance. His employer learned about the incident yesterday.
According to RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, locally known as Radio Azatlyk, police took the journalist, his mother, and his wife from his home to a nearby police station, where he was beaten and forced to confess to possessing 11 kilograms (24 pounds) of nasvay, a smokeless tobacco product, still widely consumed in Central Asia despite an official 2008 ban. Radio Azatlyk reported that a woman whom police alleged had sold Allashov the product said she had seen the journalist at the police station severely bruised and unable to hold up his head or to speak. The broadcaster said several other witnesses confirmed the woman’s account. The journalist’s wife told RFE/RL that Allashov had confessed under duress, and could face up to seven years in prison.