Turkmenistan: Prominent ecologist Andrey Zatoka is arrested in Dashoguz

Turkmenistan: Prominent ecologist Andrey Zatoka is arrested in Dashoguz

On October 20 Andrey Zatoka, 53-year old prominent ecologist and civil society activist, was detained on his birthday date in Turkmenistan, Ferghana.Ru reported.

Ferghana.Ru source in Turkmenistan notes that the ecologist was arrested at the bazaar of Dashoguz city by two policemen. He is accused of assaulting the unknown person. Zatoka denies this fact.

It has to be mentioned that in December of 2006 the Turkmen government attempted to sue Andrey Zatoka: on January 31, 2007 the city court of Dashoguz conditionally sentenced him for four years and accused of illegal storage of weapons and turnover of poisonous substances as well as illegal production snake venom. The verdict had only one strict rule - "not to change permanent residence without police permission".

While Zatoka was detained the activists established the international committee, consisting of prominent ecologists and human rights leaders, to protect Zatoka. In September of 2007 Andrey Zatoka, among thousands of other convicts, was forgiven. According to Turkmen legislation, the pardon of condemned people automatically means cancellation of criminal record. However, he is still banned to leave the country.

On October 21 at 1pm Zatoka will be interviewed. Today, the ecologist is placed at detention cell. No one is allowed to see him.

Apparently, Turkmen government prefers to arrest people at important dates: last time Zatoka was arrested on 25th wedding anniversary.

Andrey Zatoka was born in 1956 in Sverdlovsk. Graduating from biology department of Ural University he moved to Turkmenistan in 1982. Until 1992 he worked at Kaplankur reserve, also successfully doing public activity. He was one of the founders of Dashkhovuz Ecology Club and few other ecological NGOs in Krasnovodsk, Ashgabat, Karakal and Sverdlovsk. Besides, Zatoka contributed to the establishment of two Central Asian organizations - LEEP and Biostan. Zatoka is the member of Social-Ecological Union (SEU). In 1992 he was elected to SEU border. Friends say that "he was never involved politics and does not have bad habits". In 2003 the authorities cancelled the registration and shut Dashoguz ecological club, founded by Zatoka.

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