New York, May 12, 2022 – Turkmen authorities should cease retaliating against imprisoned journalist Nurgeldi Halykov, and should release him immediately and unconditionally, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Authorities first arrested Halykov in July 2020 and sentenced him to four years in prison that September. During his imprisonment, authorities have placed Halykov, a correspondent for the Netherlands-based independent news website Turkmen.news, in a so-called punishment cell three times, with each instance corresponding to his employer’s coverage of his case, according to Turkmen.news director Ruslan Myatiev, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Prisoners held in punishment cells are not allowed to leave the cell to circulate with other prisoners, are deprived of reading material or other entertainment, and otherwise face worse conditions than regular prisoners, Myatiev said.
“Turkmen journalist Nurgeldi Halykov is already serving a wholly unjustified sentence in retaliation for his work, and further punishing him when his employer raises his case is the height of injustice,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator. “Turkmen authorities must cease placing Halykov in a punishment cell and must also overturn the trumped-up charges against him and release him without delay.”
Halykov is serving a four-year sentence at a prison in the eastern Lebap region on fraud charges, which his outlet believes are retaliation for his journalism, as CPJ has documented.
At the time of his arrest, authorities offered Halykov the choice of admitting to fraud charges or facing rape charges, which are subject to longer prison terms, according to Myatiev.
Myatiev told CPJ that the outlet hoped there could be a change in Halykov’s case after Serdar Berdymukhamedov succeeded his father, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, as the country’s president on March 19.
CPJ called the Turkmen Ministry of National Security and Interior Ministry, which oversees the prison system, for comment, but no one answered.