Nazar Toylievich Soyunov: Fear of forcible repatriation
Amnesty International Urgent Action Bulletin, AI Index: EUR 46/29/97, UA 376/97, 28 November 1997
Nazar Toylievich Soyunov, former Deputy Prime Minister of Turkmenistan, aged 61
Nazar Soyunov, a former parliamentarian and government minister of Turkmenistan, is apparently facing imminent and forcible repatriation to Turkmenistan after being detained in Russia for questioning. If returned to Turkmenistan, Amnesty International fears that Nazar Soyunov would be at risk of grave violation of his human rights, specifically the bringing of fabricated criminal charges to punish him for his opposition to the government and President of Turkmenistan, and torture and ill-treatment.
Nazar Soyunov has worked in Russia, albeit without any formal legal status there, as a gas and oil consultant at the Russian Scientific Research Institute and at the Russian State Duma (parliament) since he left the government of Turkmenistan in 1995. From 1991 to 1995 Nazar Soyunov held very senior posts in the Turkmen government, serving as Deputy Head of State, Deputy Head of Government and Presidential Adviser.
On 26 November 1997 he was detained in Moscow by officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB)and questioned for four hours about criminal charges brought against him in Turkmenistan. He was released by the FSB reportedly because of insufficient evidence against him. He has since gone into hiding.
Amnesty International has learned that President Niyazov of Turkmenistan personally requested Nazar Soyunov's extradition, claiming that he was facing charges of corruption in Turkmenistan. Nazar Soyunov and his supporters claim that these charges have been fabricated in order to punish him for an interview he gave to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on 24 October 1997 in which he criticized the present policies and practices of the Turkmen government and the Turkmen President. Following the broadcast of the interview the official press in Turkmenistan reported that a criminal case had been opened against Nazar Soyunov and that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Sources close to Nazar Soyunov reported on 21 November 1997 that officials of the General Procuracy and the National Security Committee (KNB) of Turkmenistan had arrived in Moscow to search for him. Treaties on cooperation in law enforcement between Turkmenistan and Russia apparently allow for criminal suspects to be extradited without facing a formal hearing at which objections to extradition by the person concerned or their legal representative can be considered.
Since becoming independent in 1991, Turkmenistan has developed a political climate which stifles fundamental human rights. Turkmenistan is led by President Saparmurad Niyazov, who uses the formal title "Turkmenbashi" - "Leader of the Turkmens". A cult of personality has been openly developed around him, and a state ideology known as "leaderism" has been implemented. Opposition parties and movements are prevented from acquiring legal status and operating openly by a combination of bureaucratic obstruction and overt official pressure, and most leading opposition activists have gone into exile. The government makes no secret of its disrespect for international human rights norms, arguing that certain individual rights and freedoms are expendable because they threaten the implementation of policies intended to resolve the country's social and economic problems within the first decade of independence.
Amnesty International continues to monitor a pattern of human rights violations by the Turkmenistan government. These include the sentencing of government opponents to long prison terms following conviction of apparently fabricated criminal offences; the arrest and ill-treatment of people involved in organized or spontaneous anti-government protests; apparently unwarranted incarceration of opposition activists in psychiatric hospitals; ill-treatment by police in prisons; and extensive use of the death penalty.