FEBRUARY 24, 2005
Posted: March 22, 2005
Viktor Panov, RIA Novosti
Panov, Ashgabat correspondent for the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, was forced to leave Turkmenistan after being detained for more than two weeks.
Panov was seen in handcuffs at Ashgabat's airport accompanied by several men in civilian cloths who led him to a Moscow-bound flight on March 12, The Associated Press reported. Panov, who holds Russian and Turkmen citizenship, had been RIA Novosti's Ashgabat correspondent since the mid-1990s and was one of the few foreign journalists in Turkmenistan.
Memorial, a Moscow-based human rights organization, reported that security agents arrested Panov on February 24, detained him for more than two weeks, and then deported him to Russia for allegedly engaging in espionage. Security agents arrested Panov and a senior official in Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry while they were having dinner in a restaurant. The ministry official was also detained on espionage charges, according to local and international press reports.
Panov returned to Moscow, a senior official at RIA Novosti headquarters in Moscow told CPJ. The official, who requested anonymity, disputed reports that Panov had been deported, but he would not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding the journalist's departure from Turkmenistan. An official who answered the phone at Turkmenistan's embassy in Washington, D.C., refused to identify himself or comment on the matter.