For Immediate Release
Contact: Kate Watters, 703-299-0854
Andrey Zatoka, environmentalist and civil society leader from Turkmenistan, was convicted of assault and sentenced to five years in prison by a judge in Dashovuz, Turkmenistan on October 29, 2009.
On October 20, 2009, Andrey Zatoka was arrested by the police in a Dashovuz bazaar, after he was attacked by an unknown man while buying groceries for his birthday. When Andrey approached the police for help, they arrested him instead of protecting him. Following his arrest, Andrey’s wife, Evgeniia Zatoka, has been denied the right to see her husband.
“Andrey’s arrest is a miscarriage of justice,” said Kate Watters, Executive Director of Crude Accountability. “Andrey has committed no crime. We appeal to the international community, to the US and Russian governments and to the OSCE to raise Andrey’s case with the Turkmen authorities. If the US, Russia and OSCE had sent observers to Andrey’s trial, as the international human rights community appealed to them to do, perhaps the outcome would have been different. It appears that the west has traded away protection of human rights for access to hydrocarbons.”
Andrey’s arrest and sentencing are the culmination of a three year long exercise in intimidation and harassment by the Turkmen authorities. He was arrested in December 2006 and charged with hooliganism as he attempted to board a plane in Dashovuz, on his way to Moscow. That charge was then changed to possession of dangerous substances after a vial of snake venom was found in his apartment. Andrey spent 46 days in prison before he was let go on a suspended sentence. In September 2007, Andrey was amnestied by President Berdymukhammedov. However, he has been denied the right to leave Turkmenistan since his arrest. Andrey holds joint Russian and Turkmen citizenship.
Andrey is the founder of the Dashovuz Ecology Club, one of Turkmenistan’s oldest and most respected environmental nongovernmental organizations, which was shut down in 2003 when the Turkmen government cracked down on civil society, changing the NGO law and making it virtually impossible to register a public organization with the government.