Turkmen authorities arrested journalist Khudayberdy Allashov, a freelance contributor to the Turkmen Service, and his mother on charges of possessing chewing tobacco only days after one RFE/RL correspondent was threatened with arrest and another was physically injured in a series of violent attacks.
Turkmenistan police carrying weapons and video cameras entered the journalist’s house beat him, and charged him with possessing chewing tobacco, which, while illegal in Turkmenistan, is commonly consumed and not known to have led to arrests. Allashov’s wife was told that he should expect to be sentenced to seven years in prison, in an action that RFE/RL believes is part of a targeted campaign intended to silence the Turkmen Service and intimidate the Turkmen people.
On February 22, 2017, RFE/RL reported that Allashov and his mother had been released from custody on February 15 after spending 2.5 months in detention. Reliable sources in Turkmenistan report that a court convicted them both of possessing chewing tobacco and handed each a suspended three-year prison sentence. The pair is now back home in the northern city of Koneurgench under police surveillance, but are not allowed to use any communication tools.