Turkmenistan: Former Culture Minister Harassed after Interview
When Geldimurat Nurmuhammedov former minister of culture, publicly denounced his country's lack of democracy last month, few doubted that there would be some kind of consequences.
Within days of his interview with Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, tax and financial inspectors arrived at the office of Esbap, the construction firm owned by his brother, the Chronicles of Turkmenistan (chrono-tm.org), the independent exile web site reported. The company had never had any problems with the authorities before, but suddenly, it was forced to close. Berdymurad Nurmuhamedov, a lawyer who formerly worked in the prosecutor's office, was summoned by the Ministry of National Security for further interrogation about the company.
Many Turkmen-watchers were surprised at Nurmuhamedov's outspokenness, as he had served the government faithfully for years. In 1992 under past dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, he held the title of vice premier and was a member of the presidential council. But since 1994, he has been jobless and under surveillance by security police, prohibited from traveling outside Turkmenistan.
In his earlier years, Nurmuhamedov held Communist Party posts in Dashoguz. A journalist who requested anonymity told chrono-tm.org that he recalled Nurmuhamedov as a man of principle, "sober-thinking and with a good memory." But another unnamed former subordinate of Nurmuhamedov described him as petty and nationalist, hostile to non-Turkmens. The reason for his fall from power is not known.
The Turkmen government often uses the method of targeting family members in order to harass critics. For example, a number of officials in the failed 2002 coup were arrested, along with their family members, or relatives lost their jobs or were barred from travel abroad. Usually, the secret police hope with this tactic to get the critic’s own relatives to pressure him
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