Andrey Zatoka, renowned Turkmen environmentalist and civil society activist, was released from prison on November 6, 2009, when his five-year prison sentence was commuted to a $350 fine. Wrongly convicted of assaulting a stranger in a politically motivated arrest and trial in Dashovuz, Turkmenistan, Zatoka was released from prison, but also required to relinquish his Turkmen citizenship and leave Turkmenistan permanently. He boarded a flight from Ashgabat to Moscow on Sunday, November 8, 2009.
“We are relieved that Andrey is free and reunited with his family,” said Kate Watters, Executive Director of Crude Accountability. “However, we are saddened that Andrey was forced to give up his citizenship and home in Turkmenistan. The fact remains that Andrey committed no crime. The Turkmen authorities have forced a respected civil society leader to leave the country. We are concerned for Andrey’s friends and colleagues who remain in Turkmenistan, and we continue to monitor the human rights situation inside the country.”
Andrey Zatoka was arrested on October 20, 2009 as he purchased groceries for his birthday party in the Dashovuz bazaar. He was attacked by a convicted drug addict, and when Zatoka called for help from the police, was himself arrested. In a trial which, according to the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, failed to meet international standards, Zatoka was sentenced to five years in prison for assault.
Zatoka’s arrest and trial were the culmination of a three-year campaign by the Turkmen authorities to discredit him. He was arrested in December 2006 on false charges and imprisoned until January 2007, when the Turkmen authorities released him due to international pressure. Following his release, Zatoka was denied the right to travel outside of Turkmenistan although he held Russian and Turkmen citizenship. His movements were monitored and he was followed, a fact he documented in a letter he wrote in June 2008 when he feared he might be re-arrested.
Andrey Zatoka moved to Turkmenistan in 1982 in order to work in the nature reserve system. A herpetologist with a degree from the Ural State University in Russia, Zatoka co-founded the Dashovuz Ecology Club and taught generations of Turkmen children about the value of the natural world.
- Letter of Thanks from Evgeniia Zatoka, November 12,2009
- RFE/RL article “Turkmen Case Highlights Plight of Activists in Central Asia”, November 06, 2009
- Solidarity article “Freedom is the Cost of Citizenship”, November 06, 2009
- US Embassy in Turkmenistan Statement on the Imprisonment of Environmental Activist Andrei Zatoka, November 4, 2009
- US Embassy in Turkmenistan Response to Crude Accountability’s Appeal, November 4, 2009
- Statement from Evgeniia Zatoka, Andrey’s Wife, Providing a Full Account of the Trial, October 31, 2009
- Letter from Evgeniia Zatoka, Andrey’s Wife, October 31, 2009
- Press Release Issued by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, October 30, 2009
- Crude Accountability Press Release on Zatoka’s Sentencing, October 29, 2009
- A letter from Andrey Zatoka’s wife to their children, following the trial in Dashovuz, Turkmenistan, October 29, 2009. Andrey’s children are living in Russia, where they are university students.
- Crude Accountability’s appeal to Turkmenistan’s President Berdymukhammedov, October 27, 2009
- Amnesty International Urgent Action for Andrey Zatoka, October 27, 2009 (includes suggestions on how you can help!)
- Crude Accountability’s appeal to Turkmenistan’s Ambassador to the US, October 26, 2009
- Crude Accountability’s appeal to the US Embassy in Turkmenistan, October 26, 2009
- Turkmenistan: Russian Citizen Andrey Zatoka will Stand Trial on October 29, published by Fergana.ru on October 26, 2009
- Turkmen police arrest green activist: Rights Watch, published by Reuters on October 24, 2009
- Letter written by Andrey over a year ago in case of his “arrest, disappearance or unfortunate circumstance”, circulated October 23, 2009
- International appeal for the release of Andrey Zatoka, signed by over 60 individuals/organizations on October 23, 2009
- BBC Russia article “Human Rights Activists are Stunned by the Arrest of Activist in Turkmenistan”, October 23, 2009
- Human Rights Watch Press Release, October 23, 2009
- Russian President Medvedev called upon to defend Zatoka, a Russian citizen, October 23, 2009
- Crude Accountability letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 22, 2009
- Press release issued by Memorial Human Right Center in Moscow, October 21, 2009
Crude Press Release
November 10, 2009
Contact: Kate Watters