Trial of Andrei Zatoka scheduled for 29 October
The trial of the well-known environmentalist and civic activist, Andrei Zatoka, has been set for 29 October, only 9 days after his arrest on trumped-up charges of assaulting and inflicting bodily injuries on a passer-by. As reported already, Andrei, a Russian national, living in Turkmenistan, was himself set upon by a man who proved to be a drug addict with criminal convictions at a market where he was buying food for guests coming to celebrate his birthday on 20 October. Andrei realized he was being set up, and attempted to call the police, however was himself arrested and charged with assault. Similar tactics were applied in December 2006, however due to the death of Niyazov, he then received a suspended sentence. It should, however, be noted that the article of the Criminal Code which he is being charged under allows for a harsher sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment for a repeat offence.
It is also important to point out that 27 October is Turkmenistan’s Independence Day, with public festivities going on from 25 to 28 October. “The swift work of Turkmenistan’s law enforcement system on the eve of the festivities demonstrates that in effect a decision on the “case” against the environmentalist has already been taken. They are also, evidently, hoping that on Independence Day representatives of other countries will send the Turkmenistan leadership greetings and not letters demanding the release of the environmentalist”, the Co-Chair of the Social and Environmental Union, Sviatoslav Zabelin, explains.
On Sunday Andrei’s wife Yevgenia arrived from Russia. While fearing for her own safety, she decided she must come to give support to her husband.
Andrei Zatoka has addressed an appeal to the Russian Federation Ambassador in Ashkhabad. In it he describes the fabricated “assault” of which he stands accused, He writes:
“For me it is clear that the attack was set up with the help of a provocateur, a freelance police helper, and all that followed, the arrest and charge were planned and organized in advance. Judging by how things are developing, it is the Security Service which is orchestrating this, moreover the decision was taken at a high level. I am facing 5 years imprisonment, and cannot hope for objectivity and justice from the court and investigators in conditions where they are being pressured by Security Service officers who remain on the sidelines.
The only thing that can help me is your intervention. In 2006 they already tried to convict me on fabricated charges, and it was only the intervention of President Putin that saved me from imprisonment. And although I was released in the courtroom, I still received a suspended sentence and ended up on the list of those unable to travel abroad. My appeals to various bodies to have the ban on travel removed have been fruitless, I couldn’t even get an explanation as to the grounds for preventing me visiting my home country. As a result I have not seen my mother or children for 4 years, I was not able to be at the wedding of my daughter, the birth of my grandson and funeral of my mother-in-law.
The Security Service’s motives in persecuting me remain unclear, and I can only suppose that it is connected with the fact that I am close to several Turkmen dissidents, including Farid Tukhbatullin. I only know that I have not engaged in unlawful or anti-State activities and the suspicions can only be funded on There has even been the suggestion that someone has set their eyes on my 5-room flat. Confirmation of this version can be seen in the fact that the law enforcement bodies received an anonymous letter two months ago which claimed that my flat is being used for immoral persons, that the neighbours are suffering from the noise, smell and poisonous snakes, and that I myself lead a dissolute and anti-social way of life. The anonymous letter was carefully checked and no basis found for the absurd charges. It is obvious that the anonymous letter was manufactured by the same Security Service and that they have decided to imprison me using a standard set up and trumped up charges.
I have no expectation that you will believe in my innocence merely on the basis of this letter. I would therefore ask you to send your representative lawyer to observe the trial. Even mere notification of concern and interest in this case could have a positive effective. “
Andrei Zatoka concludes the appeal by explaining that he sees no future for himself in Turkmenistan and is planning to renounce his Turkmenistan citizenship and move with his entire family to Russia (he presently holds dual nationality).