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 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 17:44 GMT
'Stalinist' Turkmen media attacked
Russian TV footage of the suspects
The trial was held behind closed doors
Europe's security organisation, the OSCE, has condemned Turkmenistan's state media of using "Stalinist" methods against people accused of trying to assassinate the country's president.

These are the same methods that were used during the Stalinist show trials of the 1930s in the Soviet Union

Freimut Duve, OSCE
Senior OSCE representative Freimut Duve said state television had tried to humiliate and destroy the accused, using "obscene" rhetoric and explicitly racist language.

The criticism came a day after a Turkmen court delivered lengthy prison sentences against nine Turkmen accused of the attack on President Saparmurat Niyazov.

Businessman Guvanch Dzhumayev, whom the authorities have accused of being one of the main ringleaders, was jailed for life, AFP news agency reported.

His son was jailed for 25 years, while his brother and father received 20 years each.

The government says that President Niyazov's motorcade came under fire from machine guns during the attack on 25 November last year.

The president was not harmed.

Some opponents of President Niyazov have claimed that the assassination attempt may have been staged as an excuse to crack down on the opposition.

Sixteen foreigners were reported to be among 32 defendants, including five Russians and six citizens of Turkey, according to the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass.

Saparmurat Niyazov
Mr Niyazov does not tolerate opposition
The Turkmen authorities revealed little information about who was appearing or even where the trial was taking place.

Earlier, Turkmen state-run television had shown the suspects apparently confessing, and then being denounced by members of the public demanding the death penalty.

Mr Duve, the OSCE's representative on freedom of the media, called it an abuse of the country's media, saying the rhetoric used would be unprintable in most countries.

He said the same methods were "used during the Stalinist show trials of the 1930s in the Soviet Union".

But a televised statement by Boris Shikhmuradov, the former foreign minister and the opposition leader blamed for masterminding the attack, has attracted most attention.

Many who saw the broadcast say Mr Shikhuradov - who confessed of planning the assassination - looked drugged, and his speech was slurred.

Last month, he was jailed for life over the and would never be eligible for parole, state media reported.

An order published in the official press gives the Supreme Court powers to deny Mr Shikhmuradov any amnesty, pardon, early release or change of prison regime.

His sister Larisa said Mr Shikhmuradov had a heart condition and she feared for his life.

Personality cult

Three other political exiles have been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment.

They are:

  • Nurmukhamet Khanamov, a former ambassador to Turkey
  • Khudayberdy Orazov, a former head of the Central Bank
  • Imamdurdy Yklymov, a former deputy minister of agriculture

    President Niyazov told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Turkmenistan would hand over four Russian suspects, Mr Niyazov's spokesman said.

    Before the trials started, the president said 20 of the defendants should be jailed.

    Mr Niyazov, 62, has been in power since before independence from the USSR in 1991 and styles himself the Father of all Turkmen.

    Streets and towns have been given his name and a parliamentary decree has renamed the months of the year and days of the week after the president, his mother and Turkmen folklore heroes.

  • See also:

    30 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
    26 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
    25 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
    19 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
    13 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
    08 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
    28 Sep 02 | Country profiles
    28 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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