Turkmen authorities have released a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, who had been sentenced earlier this month to a five-year prison term in a case that drew outrage from the U.S. Congress, policymakers, foreign governments, and advocacy groups.
Dovletmyrat Yazkuliyev was pardoned on October 26 as part of a presidential amnesty marking the 20th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s independence. Under the decree, some 1,700 prisoners are expected to be freed.
Yazkuliyev was charged with encouraging the suicide attempt of a relative, accusations his family claim were brought in retaliation for his reporting. Family members said that they had been forced by police to sign statements against him, and that their efforts to retract them were ignored in the trial that ensued.
Yazkuliyev was threatened by security agents in July with charges of “causing national, social, and religious provocations” after he posted reports about explosions in the city of Abadan, despite government efforts to suppress information about the incident.
Upon hearing the news of Yazkuliyev’s release, RFE/RL President Steve Korn said, “I’m delighted and relieved at Dovlet’s release. I’m also keenly aware that he was the victim of policies in Turkmenistan that are aggressively hostile to media freedom, and that the international community must continue to condemn efforts to silence free speech.”