(Prague, Czech Republic -- April 12, 2006) Turkmen prisoner of conscience Gurbandurdy Durdykuliev, released yesterday after being incarcerated for two years in a psychiatric institution, spoke to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Turkmen Service today about his imprisonment and why he was released.
Durdykuliev said he owed his freedom directly to the U.S. Congress and wanted, through RFE/RL, to thank the 54 U.S. Senators and Representatives who sent a letter last week to Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov urging his release. "Without that letter, I would still be with them (in the psychiatric ward)," he said.
Turkmen authorities placed Durdykuliev in a psychiatric institution in 2004 after he requested permission to hold a rally protesting government policies on the same day as celebrations were scheduled to mark Niyazov's birthday. Prior to his arrest and incarceration, Durdykuliev was frequently heard on RFE/RL Turkmen Service broadcasts.
During today's interview, Durdykuliev told RFE/RL that he was detained for two years and two months with murderers and the criminally insane, and subjected to a systematic campaign to make him lose his mind -- even though a health commission had certified he was in good mental health and classified him as a political prisoner. Durdykuliev said that, for the last three weeks, he was not allowed hot meals or family visits. Then yesterday, April 11, Durdykuliev said he was taken out of the hospital, put in a car and driven more than 13 hours to his home in the town of Nebit Dag, near the Caspian Sea coast in western Turkmenistan.
Durdykuliev told RFE/RL that he needs medical treatment and plans to sue the Turkmen government for compensation. "I am asking Turkmen authorities to pay me $5 million," he said. A report
on Durdykuliev's release and his interview with RFE/RL's Turkmen Service can be found on the RFE/RL website.
RFE/RL's Turkmen Service broadcasts six hours of programming a day to Turkmenistan, produced in Prague and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, medium wave and satellite broadcasts. Turkmen Service programming is also available via the Internet, at www.rferl.org
; English-language news about events in Turkmenistan
can also be found on the RFE/RL website.