(Washington, DC--January 16, 2003) RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine expressed his profound concern today about the safety and welfare of Orazmuhammet Yklymov, a freelance journalist with RFE/RL's Turkmen Service in Moscow, who faces the imminent threat of forcible extradition from Russia to Turkmenistan. If extradited, Yklymov faces the possibility of mistreatment by the Turkmen government, which has already arrested and confiscated the homes of nearly 30 members of Yklymov's family in a wave of repression that has followed an alleged opposition attack on Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.
Dine said, "I call on the Russian government to refuse the Turkmen government's demands to extradite our journalist Orazmuhammet Yklymov in connection with the witch hunt that began in Turkmenistan in late November. Were Russia to accede to these demands, I fear that Yklymov would be tortured and tried unfairly by Turkmen authorities." Yklymov holds both Russian and Turkmen citizenship.
Turkmen authorities have accused Yklymov of involvement in procuring weapons and ammunition in connection with the alleged November 25, 2002 opposition attack on Niyazov. Yklymov -- the uncle of accused attack planner and former Turkmen Deputy Agriculture Minister Saparmurat Yklymov -- categorically denies the accusations. His sons, Esenaman and Ayly Yklymov, were arrested in Turkmenistan following the November 25 incident and are said to have been beaten and tortured by law enforcement officers while in detention. The fate of Yklymov and his family has been the subject of appeals by several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.