Turkmen RFE Contributor Forcibly Detained in Psychiatric Hospital
Turkmen authorities have detained yet another stringer from Radio Azatlyk, Radio Free Europe's (RFE) Turkmen service, RFE reported yesterday. RFE is an international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Congress.
Amangelen Shapudakov, 80, was summoned to local police headquarters in his home district of Magtymguly in southwestern Turkmenistan on March 7 and has not been seen since, colleagues in Prague reported.
An official at a psychiatric facility in the regional capital of Balkanabat confirmed to Radio Azatlyk that Shapudakov had been committed at least 10 days ago for medical exams and was expected to remain at the hospital for another month. Magtymguly police officers have also confirmed that he was institutionalized.
Shapudakov had earlier complained of harassment and police posted photos in public places suggesting he was a criminal.
The few people in Turkmenistan brave enough to risk reporting for foreign broadcasters experience enormous pressure from the Turkmen government, which permits only state-controlled media. Their family members are also frequently harassed.
In January, unidentified young men attacked the home in Ashgabat of Gurbansoltan Achilova, a civil society activist and stringer for Radio Azatlyk, the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) reported.
Shapudakov's confinement marks the second time in three years that Turkmen officials have committed an RFE contributor to a psychiatric facility. In 2008, Radio Azatlyk commentator Sazak Durdymuradov was forcibly institutionalized for two weeks in a case that aroused international outrage.