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As US-Turkmen Talks Commence, Rights Groups Demand Freedom for Nepeskuliev

Turkmenistan -- Photo from Ahalteke magazine of Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov with Akhalteke horse.

The bilateral talks come on the heels of rising urgency in the region, but rights advocates demand that Turkmenistan's human rights record be discussed.

On the eve of bilateral talks between governments of the U.S. and Turkmenistan, media and human rights groups have addressed a letter to Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov demanding freedom for Sapermamed Nepeskuliev, an independent journalist whose imprisonment exemplifies the country's absymal human rights record.

Nepeskuliev, who contributes to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, was detained in July and has been held since incommunicado, reportedly in a prison in the country's western Balkan province.

The letter urges his immediate release, stating, "Nepeskuliev’s incommunicado detention, imprisonment on trumped up charges, and the authorities’ efforts to keep his family from contacting him and appealing his alleged conviction are serious violations of his rights and of Turkmenistan’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

Organizations signing the letter include Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Alternative Turkmenistan News, and RFE/RL.