Ongoing wave of repression after attack on the President. On 23 December 2002 civil society activist and ecologist Farid Tukhbatullin was arrested in the city of Dashoguz, in Northern Turkmenistan. He was flown to the capital Ashgabat and is currently being held at the Ministry of National Security, where he is believed to be at risk of torture. In a statement issued shortly after his arrest, fellow civil society activists in Turkmenistan expressed serious concern about his wellbeing: "[We believe that] his life is in real danger. His detention is a result of the continuing mass repression in Turkmenistan that remind us…of the terrible times under Stalin." They added: "In order to protect his life every public statement and every letter of support is important."
Charged without evidence Reportedly, Farid Tukhbatullin was charged on 26 December with illegally crossing the Turkmen-Uzbek border (Article 214 of the Criminal Code of Turkmenistan) and concealing a serious criminal act (Article 212). No evidence is known that would substantiate either of the charges. The latter charge allegedly referred to his participation in a conference, held at the beginning of November in Moscow that had been organised by human rights groups. He has reportedly been accused of refusing to disclose information about the plans of exiled opposition groups who, along with human rights organizations, attended the conference. Amnesty International believes that the charges against Farid Tukhbatullin were brought to punish him for exercising his internationally recognised right to freedom of expression and for his peaceful activities as a civil society activist. Wave of repression In the past, Farid Tukhbatullin has frequently been harassed by the authorities. For example, on 9 December 2002, he was summoned to the regional branch of the Ministry of National Security and questioned about his participation at the conference in Moscow. A senior official told him: "We cannot forbid you to take part in conferences like that, but I hope you know what that can lead to." Farid Tukhbatullin's arrest is reportedly the first arrest of a civil society activist in an ongoing wave of repression triggered by an attack on the President's motorcade on 25 November 2002. His arrest sends out a worrying signal to the small community of civil society activists in Turkmenistan, who to date have carried out their activities under considerable pressure of harassment and intimidation.