Turkmen authorities have arrested an RFE/RL contributor on charges of possessing chewing tobacco, days after one RFE/RL correspondent was threatened with arrest and another was physically injured in a series of violent attacks.
Khudayberdy Allashov was apprehended in Turkmenistan's northern Dashoguz Province on December 3, when police officers entered his house, beat him, and rounded up his family, RFE/RL said in a statement.
Both Allashov and his mother were charged with possessing chewing tobacco, which, while illegal in Turkmenistan, is commonly consumed and not known to have led to arrests in the past.
Allashov's wife was told that he had confessed to possessing 11 kilograms of the product and could expect to be sentenced to seven years in prison. She believes that if he confessed, it was under duress.
"We believe these charges are part of a targeted campaign intended to silence our Turkmen Service and intimidate the Turkmen people," RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said in a December 5 statement. "Over the last 18 months our reporters have been arrested, held incommunicado, beaten, interrogated, threatened, and arbitrarily jailed, and we hold the Turkmen government responsible."