Green Cross Russia decries custody of Turkmen activist

A well-known environmentalist and civil society leader from Turkmenistan, Andrey Zatoka, was sentenced to 5 years in prison on 29 October 2009.

On 20 October 2009, Zatoka was attacked by a man while shopping at a market in Dashoguz. When Zatoka’s wife turned to two police officers nearby to report the incident, the policemen proceeded to arrest Zatoka. He had never met the man who struck him and had absolutely no reason to engage in an altercation with him. Following his arrest, Zatoka’s wife, Evgenya, has been denied the right to see her husband.
Andrey Zatoka is the founder of the Dashovuz Ecology Club, one of
Turkmenistan’s oldest and most respected environmental nongovernmental organizations. The organization was shut down in 2003 when the Turkmen government cracked down on civil society, changing the NGO law and making it virtually impossible to register a public organisation. He is also co-founder of Socio-Ecological Union International.
“We are strongly believe that he did not commit crimes”, said Sergey Baranovsky, Green Cross Russia President. “The Russian environmental NGO community will join together to fight for Andrey Zatoka’s freedom. We also call on Russian authorities and the international community to take active measures to secure the release of an environmental prisoner.”
The 20 October arrest was not the first time Zatoka has been targeted by Turkmen authorities. On December 17, 2006, he was seized by police on a flight to Ashgabad and charged with two violations of
Turkmenistan’s criminal code in what appeared to be a politically motivated prosecution in retaliation for his civic activism. He was given a suspended sentence and released on 31 January 2007.
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