Turkmenistan must grant retrial to hunger strike prisoner on brink of death

The Turkmenistani authorities must grant a retrial to an unfairly imprisoned human rights activist who has hours to live following a 14-day dry hunger strike, Amnesty International said today.Mansur Mingelov has refused all food or drink since 19 May in protest at the 22-year sentence for alleged drug and child pornography offences passed down after an unfair trial. Prison doctors say he is in a critical condition.The 39-year-old was arrested in 2012 after recording evidence of police torture from detainees from Turkmenistan’s Baloch ethnic community.“Mansur Mingelov was imprisoned after an unfair trial after daring to expose police human rights violations against an ethnic minority group,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.“The Turkmenistani authorities can avert his death by abiding by their obligations and granting Mansur Mingelov a fair trial.”His conviction was largely based on the testimony of four alleged victims who did not understand the Turkmen language and signed untranslated statements – reportedly under intimidation and threat.No identification parade was conducted or other evidence collected during the investigation. Mansur Mingelov was not even allowed to be represented by a lawyer of his choice throughout the court procedure.Mansur Mingelov was first arrested in June 2012, a day after his brother Rustam, in connection with alleged drug offences. Both were allegedly beaten by security services during interrogation. After his release 15 days later, Mansur lodged complaints about his and his still-detained brother’s ill-treatment. Two police officers were subsequently dismissed. This experience prompted Mansur to collect evidence of torture and other ill-treatment of other individuals, most of whom were of Baloch origin living in Mary province, south-east Turkmenistan. These included allegations of law enforcement officers pulling detainees’ scrotums with pliers, using chisels on their bones and subjecting them to electric shocks.Mansur Mingelov sent the information to the US Embassy in the capital Ashgabat, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Turkmenistan Prosecutor General’s Office. Mansur was re-arrested on 2 August 2012. Then, on 10 September 2012, he was convicted and sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment on what he alleges to be spurious charges of “involving minors in socially inappropriate actions” and the production and distribution of pornography and drugs.The case against Mansur Mingelov was plagued by numerous procedural violations, including the fabrication of evidence. Mansur Mingelov says he watched the child pornography used to convict him being uploaded on to his computer by state security officials.“Rather than persecuting Mansour Mingelov, the Turkmenistani authorities must investigate the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment that he has uncovered and bring to justice any police officers found responsible for abuses,” said Denis Krivosheev. Mansur Mingelov’s condition has deteriorated significantly since he began his hunger strike and he is now unable to get out of bed.Last week he rejected attempts by his father to make him drink water, and try to get him to accept an intravenous drip, saying that he would either prove his innocence or die with dignity.   Mansur Mingelov’s complaints to the Supreme Court and other authorities in Turkmenistan have all gone unanswered.BackgroundMansur Mingelov is imprisoned in Seidi, Lebap province in north-eastern Turkmenistan. Torture and other ill-treatment is widespread in Turkmenistan. Such is the climate of fear that few people dare to report incidents of torture and other ill-treatment that occur in detention, or even talk about it following their release.In theory, the Constitution of Turkmenistan provides for an independent judicial system, but in practice there are no meaningful appeal procedures and acquittals are rare, if not unheard of, in criminal trials.