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Turkmen Journalist Nepeskuliev Released After Serving Prison Sentence

RFE/RL contributor Saparmamed Nepeskuliev (file photo)
RFE/RL contributor Saparmamed Nepeskuliev (file photo)

Turkmen journalist and RFE/RL contributor Saparmamed Nepeskuliev has been released after serving a three-year prison term on drug charges that human rights groups and a UN panel denounced as politically motivated.

RFE/RL's Turkmen Service said Nepeskuliev was released on May 19.

Nepeskuliev disappeared on July 7, 2015 and was held incommunicado for weeks before a court in tightly controlled Turkmenistan found him guilty of narcotics charges that rights groups said were fabricated in retaliation for his reporting.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention designated Nepeskuliev’s detention as "arbitrary" in December 2015, saying that the journalist had been "deprived of liberty for having peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression."

In July 2016, seven U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov calling Nepeskuliev’s imprisonment "unlawful" and urging his immediate release.

In video reports for RFE/RL, Nepeskuliev documented decaying infrastructure and economic inequality in western Turkmenistan.

Other RFE/RL reporters and contributors in Turkmenistan have faced physical attacks, threats, and prosecution on charges that critics say are groundless.