“I served from bell to bell”: Turkmenistan released journalist Nurgeldy Khalykov

In Turkmenistan, journalist Nurgeldy Khalykov was released after serving his full prison term. Turkmen.news correspondents reported this.
Khalykov was arrested in 2020 and sentenced to four years for alleged fraud, which human rights groups say is retaliation for his journalistic work.

Nurgeldy Khalykov became famous after he sent a photograph of a group of WHO representatives arriving in Turkmenistan to the independent news agency Turkmen.news in July 2020. Soon after, he was arrested and charged with fraud. Deputy Minister of National Security of Turkmenistan Orazgeldy Meredov suggested that Khalykov admit the charge or receive a more severe punishment under another article.

Human rights organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and the UN Human Rights Committee, have repeatedly called for his release, pointing out the injustice of the charges and the conditions of detention in the LB-K/12 colony in the Lebap region. Khalykov was often subject to punishment, including placement in a punishment cell, for any publications about him in the media.

Let us remind you that Khalykov was summoned for questioning by the police on July 13, 2020, the day after the photo was published on the website turkmen.news. The original photo was taken on July 12 by a resident of Ashgabat at the pool of the capital’s Yyldiz Hotel. The author of the photo posted it on Instagram, and Nurgeldy considered it necessary to forward the photo to the media editorial office. The girl was identified from CCTV cameras. She and six friends, relaxing by the hotel pool, were called to the police after studying the information on their phones. Nurgeldy was also called to the police for an interview, but he never returned home.

On September 15, the Bagtyyarlyk District Court of Ashgabat sentenced a man to four years in prison on trumped-up charges of fraud. Allegedly, Khalykov did not repay his friend a monetary debt in the amount of 5 thousand dollars.

In the end, Khalykov’s release became possible only after completing his full prison term. The case highlights ongoing problems with human rights and press freedom in Turkmenistan, where journalists and activists are often harassed and arrested for their professional activities. There, all these problems are caused by an authoritarian regime that controls the media and suppresses any criticism of itself. Journalists and activists are often arrested, harassed, and tortured for their professional or political activities. Independent media are virtually non-existent, and human rights organizations regularly report serious abuses, including unfair trials and mistreatment of prisoners.