Turkmenistan: Two prisoner of conscience deaths from torture?

By Felix Corley | Forum 18

At least two Muslim prisoners of conscience died in Turkmenistan’s top security Ovadan-Depe prison in the second half of 2016, the exile Alternative Turkmenistan News noted on 10 January. Lukman Yaylanov died in summer 2016, possibly as a result of torture, and Narkuly Baltayev several months later. Both men were in their thirties. The two were part of a large group of Sunni Muslims from the eastern Lebap Region imprisoned in 2013 to punish them for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.

Although the two men’s bodies were handed over to their families for burial, relatives had to sign a document banning them from revealing what they saw, Alternative Turkmenistan News added. However, Baltayev’s body showed that at death he weighed no more than 25 kilogrammes (55 pounds). In his lifetime he had been a large man.

Forum 18 has been unable to establish whether Yaylanov and Baltayev died of illness, starvation, neglect or torture. Alternative Turkmenistan News cites a former fellow prisoner who said he heard Yaylanov being tortured in Ovadan-Depe Prison.