An imprisoned human rights activist in Turkmenistan “has hours to live” following a 14-day hunger strike, Amnesty International said yesterday.
Mansur Mingelov, 39, was arrested in 2012 after documenting police torture, including instances where police subjected detainees to electric shocks and yanked on their genitals with pliers, Amnesty said.
“The Turkmenistani authorities can avert his death by abiding by their obligations and granting Mansur Mingelov a fair trial,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program.
Mingelov has refused food since May 19 “in protest at the 22-year sentence for alleged drug and child pornography offences passed down after an unfair trial. Prison doctors say he is in a critical condition,” Amnesty said in a June 2 statement :
His conviction was largely based on the testimony of four alleged victims who did not understand the Turkmen language and signed untranslated statements – reportedly under intimidation and threat. […]
[O]n 10 September 2012, he was convicted and sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment on what he alleges to be spurious charges of “involving minors in socially inappropriate actions” and the production and distribution of pornography and drugs.
Prison conditions in Turkmenistan are medieval. Tuberculosis is rife, food shortages common, and access for relatives restricted, the State Department said in its most recent human rights report . State also said arbitrary arrest and detention are “serious problems.”
Calling Turkmenistan “one of the world’s most repressive countries,” Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2014  that “the actual number of those jailed on political grounds is impossible to determine because the justice system lacks transparency, trials are closed in political cases, and the overall level of repression precludes independent monitoring of these cases.”
So the fact that Amnesty knows this much about Mingelov’s situation is impressive.
Last autumn, family members of former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov fruitlessly demanded  to know if he was dead or alive. Shikhmuradov was arrested in 2002, convicted during a show trial of attempting to assassinate the president, and never heard from again.