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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
France denies Turkmen spying plot
Ashgabat
Turkmenistan has no organised opposition or independent media
France has denied allegations that one of its diplomats has been involved in spying against Turkmenistan.

The Turkmen security minister has accused a French cultural attaché of giving a video camera, hidden in a pair of spectacles, to a Turkmen dissident.

He said the man was asked to film protests, prisons and military bases.

A French government spokesman said the camera was standard equipment, intended to be used for making video reports within the context of a free press.

Turkmenistan has arrested several people in connection with the alleged spying plot, including two human rights activists and a journalist with Radio Free Europe.

Turkmenistan is a largely closed society with no organised opposition or independent media.

Security Minister Geldymukhamed Ashirmukhamedov said in televised comments on Tuesday that the diplomat, Henri Tomasini, intended human rights activist Annakurban Amanklychev to produce "video material of slanderous and provocative nature intended for foreign special services and subversive centres".

Arrests

France's Foreign Ministry said the accusations were "totally unfounded".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said some standard audiovisual equipment had been given to a local resident, but "there was nothing hidden about this".

Turkmenistan has also accused an official from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) of involvement in the same plot.

Mr Amanklychev, a member of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, was arrested at the weekend, allegedly in possession of arms and ammunition.

Others arrested include two of his fellow members of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, a reporter for the US-funded radio station Radio Free Europe, and her three children.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Turkmenistan
23 Apr 06 |  Country profiles
Turkmenistan bans recorded music
23 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Turkmenistan couriers shut down
12 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Turkmenistan's 'sham poll' closes
19 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific

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