Muhametguliyev was arrested in April 2017 for incitement of religious hatred and other related charges. In June 2017, a court convicted him and nine others in a closed trial, and sentenced most of them to 23 years in prison – the first three to be served in a maximum security prison. They are all accused of affiliation with US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen and the global Islamic movement, Hizmet.
Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most closed and repressively governed countries. The government punishes any kind of independent political or religious expression. Access to information is strictly controlled and no independent monitoring groups are allowed. The government keeps everyone, especially families of prisoners, in a constant state of fear. Torture is widespread and the media is heavily censored. The country ranked last in a 2019 index on global press freedom.
It is very difficult to obtain verified information about the gravity of Muhametguliyev’s current medical condition and treatment.
Already two of Muhametguliev’s co-defendants, who were also imprisoned at Ovadan Depe, have died. Akmyrad Soyunov, a businessman with three children, died in October 2018, at age 37. No information is available about his death, other than the fact that relatives collected his body at Ovadan Depe.
Eziz Hudaiberdiyev, an English teacher and father of four, died in June, also at age 37. People close to his case told me he developed liver problems in prison and lost about 20 kilograms in the last few months of his life. He was transferred to a prison hospital shortly before his death.
Muhametguliev, 39, is a father of three, and a former history teacher and deputy school director. Sources close to his case said that like Hudaiberdiyev and Soyunov, he had no health problems when arrested. But in August, he started to complain of sharp pains in his abdomen.
Muhametguliev has apparently been in the prison infirmary, but the scant available information about medical services in Ovadan Depe raises serious concerns he will not get the treatment he needs, and to which he is entitled.
The Turkmen government should prevent yet another suspicious death by immediately releasing Muhametguliev to get medical care.