Letter from arrested environmentalist Andrei Zatoka to the Prosecutor General of Turkmenistan


 Please pass this letter to the Prosecutor General of Turkmenistan, the Russian Federation Embassy in Turkmenistan and the OSCE representative office in the event of my arrest, disappearance or accident.

                        A. Zatoka, 20 July 2008


“I, Andrei Lvovych Zatoka, citizen of Turkmenistan and Russia, permanently resident in Dashoguz, Turkmenistan (address given) have for a long period for reasons unknown to me have been subjected to persecution from the State Security bodies. From April 2008 I began noticing that I was being observed, and during the period from 11 to 18 May and at the beginning of June unidentified persons were in my flat secretly and against my will.

There is also to this time a ban on my travel abroad. This ban was imposed, it would seem, in December 2006 when I was arrested and prosecuted on a previously trumped up scenario at the order of the Security Service [MNB]. The criminal charges ended in a suspended sentence and up till September 2007 I could not leave the country due to this conviction. However in September a Decree on pardon was issued and there were no longer legal grounds for restricting travel abroad. Nonetheless, in November 2007 I learned in the Migration Service that the ban on my travel had not been removed, and in February I was told over the phone (in response to a letter from 16 November 2007) that the MNB had received confirmation that the ban was in force.

(More details follow about vain attempts to have the ban removed or receive an explanation. This is of great importance since he cannot travel to Moscow to visit his children and elderly mother whom he has not seen for two years).

I thus have grounds for suspecting that yet another provocation or prosecution is being prepared. Those who got into my flat could have planted items of a criminal nature (as was the case in December 2006 when they planted an ampoule with “snake’s poison”) to use as material evidence of a crime. It is also possible that bugging devices were installed.

There has also been psychological pressure on friends with whom I’m in contact (details are provided in the letter).

Andrei Zatoka goes on to describe the methods used by the law enforcement agencies in December 2006. They bear a worrying resemblance to the events preceding his arrest on 20 October.

He says that the interrogations during that first criminal prosecution made it plain to him that it was the security services who had ordered the prosecution, although he remains unclear as to why.

“My arrest provoked vehement response from environmental organizations in many countries since I am fairly well-known as an environmental expert and civic activist of international level. As this campaign developed, the Security Service interrogations became ever less hard-line, and finally someone up top decided to confine themselves to a suspended sentence”. 

He states that he agreed to this compromise and did not insist on a total acquittal.

Not all equipment removed from him was returned although they were not confiscated by the court.

“One thus has the highly disturbing situation where the State Security bodies have absolute influence on other enforcement and administrative structures, force them into all kinds of violations of legislation including criminal offences, standing on the sidelines and no answering for anything. I consider this situation to be extremely dangerous for the country since any citizen is unprotected in the face of arbitrary rule and lawlessness. And an attempt to conceal the original official violations can lead to even graver crimes as happened with me.

I would ask you to show maximum attention in investigating the incident over which this letter has been sent to you, and defend myself and my friends from unlawful persecution.

Written by hand on 20 June 2008, with several copies held in sealed envelopes and in electronic form by different people.

A. Zatoka”.

A list of the car numbers following Zatoka in 2008 is appended.

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