Turkmenistan. In January, 46 people were sentenced to prison sentences accused of trying to assassinate President Saparmurat Nijazov the year before. The trial was held behind closed doors and followed for several weeks by arrests and recognitions in front of TV cameras. Just before the turn of the year, the former Foreign Minister and later opposition leader Boris Sjichmuradov had been sentenced to life imprisonment accused of participation in the attack.
According to Countryaah.com, Turkmenistan Independence Day is September 27. The European Security and Cooperation Organization, the OSCE, condemned the arrests and talked about the shooting processes and confessions that were brought forward during torture. The OSCE also reported a wave of torture, mass arrests and harassment of relatives of oppositionists. The organization accused the state media of “Stalinist” methods against the accused. The president’s Turkmen opponents claimed that he had arranged the attack as a pretext to strike the opposition.
In parallel with the persecution of the opposition, the one-sided Nijazov tried to buy his support by promising free Mercedes cars to all ministers, regional leaders and other high officials. They were promised a new car every year with instructions to pass the old one on to their staff. The promise could seem attractive in a country that has enormous gas wealth but where the people live on an economic level like many African countries. At the same time, the president set up a new commission to oversee politicians ‘trips abroad and follow foreigners’ movements in Turkmenistan.
The unpredictable Nijazov also came up with a call to the country’s mass media to stop praising him. He explained that the people would be bored by his name and image constantly appearing on TV. But in 2003, Parliament had previously been dedicated to the deceased mother of the president, “the mother of Turkmenistan’s first and eternal president”.
During the fall, four opposition groups joined in exile and formed a common front, the Turkmenistan Alliance’s democratic forces.