Detained Since: June 24, 2008.
Charges: Illegal entry into Turkmenistan.
Sentence: A combined sixteen years in prison.
Biography: Gulgeldy Annaniyazov is a political dissident and human rights activist who has been detained in Turkmenistan since 2008, when he returned to the country after six years in Norway as a political refugee.
On July 12, 1995, Mr. Annaniyazov organized the first ever anti-government demonstration in Ashgabat. The Turkmen government responded to his peaceful demonstration by sentencing him to 15 years in prison. Mr. Annaniyazov was released under a presidential amnesty in January 1999. After his release, Mr. Annaniyazov received refugee status in Norway in 2002.
On June 24, 2008, Mr. Annaniyazov returned to Turkmenistan after a change in the country’s leadership to work for democratic reform. That evening while visiting with friends and family at his parents’ home, plain-clothed officers entered the house without presenting any identification or warrant and arrested Mr. Annaniyazov. It has been reported that Mr. Annaniyazov was charged with illegal entry into Turkmenistan and that his trial took place in July 2008. On October 7, 2008, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. The Turkmen government reportedly brought additional charges against him in connection with the anti-government demonstration he organized in July 1995. It has also been reported that these charges have increased the length of Mr. Annaniyazov’s prison term. He was not represented by an attorney and all of the hearings were closed to the public. The court has also refused to provide Mr. Annaniyazov’s family with a copy of the sentence, leaving them without any specific information about his conviction or where he is imprisoned.
Towards the end of his initial sentence, Turkmen authorities added an additional five years. The details remain unknown.
Advocacy Partner: Freedom Now
Turkmen authorities have added five years to Gulgeldy Annaniyazov's sentence. However, his family was able to visit him for the first time since 2008 earlier this year (May 10, 2019, Prove They Are Alive)
A bipartisan group of 11 U.S. senators wrote to the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, urging the release Gulgeldy Annaniyazov amid the Covid-19 pandemic (June 30, 2020, Ranking Member Menendez Press Release).
Though Mr. Annaniyazov has been released from prison, his conditions still amount to detention as he is forced to work for the same government that imprisoned him under less than ideal conditions (September 6, 2020, Freedom Now).