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 Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 01:18 GMT
Dozens convicted in Turkmen death 'plot'
Russian TV footage of the suspects
The trial was held behind closed doors
Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov has said 46 people have been convicted of trying to assassinate him late last year.

Boris Shikhmuradov shown on Turkmen TV first channel
A former foreign minister was jailed for life
President Niyazov gave no details of the sentences handed down in the closed trial, which followed weeks of sweeping arrests and televised confessions of the accused.

"The trial is over. Forty-six people have been convicted. There were another five or 10 people involved, but we're not going to keep on looking for them now," he told national television.

Earlier this month, the international community denounced the mass arrests of families of the suspects, with Europe's security organisation, the OSCE, accusing Turkmenistan's state media of using "Stalinist" methods against the accused.

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.

Ministers promoted

The suspects included a former parliamentary speaker and several top officials.

Saparmurat Niyazov
Mr Niyazov does not tolerate opposition

Boris Shikhmuradov, the former foreign minister and the opposition leader blamed for masterminding the attack, was earlier jailed for life without the right for parole, state media reported.

More than a dozen foreigners were also reported to have been detained, but President Niyazov has promised to extradite them.

The president gave special awards to the prosecutor general for solving the coup conspiracy.

The ministers of the interior and state security were promoted to the rank of major-generals, and dozens of police received awards for heroism.

Mr Niyazov has also ordered a book to be published to preserve the memory of the plot, Reuters news agency reported.

Personality cult

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

He quickly developed a cult of personality surrounding himself, suppressing legitimate political opposition.

He has spent vast sums of money on lavish palaces and statues of himself, despite the country's increasing poverty.

Much of the cash for such grandiose projects is thought to stem from deals involving Turkmenistan's rich oil and gas reserves.

Streets and towns have been given the president's name.

A special 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:

16 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
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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