In a written statement issued on June 9, seven non-governmental organizations called on Turkmenistan government to release 18 men, affiliated with the Gülen movement, and to quash their convictions.

“A Turkmen court sentenced 18 men to up to 25 years in prison on February 8, 2017, in what appears to be a purge of people associated with Turkish schools believed to have been previously affiliated with the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen,” Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the signatories said adding that the way Turkmenistan’s courts prosecuted and tried these men bears no resemblance to justice.

“Credible reports of the arrest, torture, conviction following unfair trials, and imprisonment under inhumane conditions of 18 men in Turkmenistan have been provided to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch,” the statement read.

Alternative Turkmenistan News, Amnesty International, Crude Accountability, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) signed the appeal.

The statement said more than 100 people were detained in September and October, 2016  over suspected links to the movement while only 18 were sentenced to prison sentence.

“Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International received allegations that the 18 men were tortured and held in inhumane conditions in pre-trial detention. The information suggests that the men were held naked in darkened rooms for long periods and repeatedly beaten. A 19th man detained at the same time may have died as a result of torture, but this has been impossible to confirm,” the statement further read.

Half of the 18 men were sentenced to 25 years in prison, with the first five years in a closed prison, and the rest in a strict-regime prison colony. The remaining nine men were sentenced to 12 years in a strict-regime prison colony.

Meanwhile, properties belonging to 18 men and their families were confiscated.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government along with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the latter’s denials of involvement.

With 120,000 people already detained over alleged or real links to the movement, thousands of others tried to escape Turkey illegally as the government cancelled their passports. While many managed to get out of the country, hundreds of others have been caught near border on Turkish side.

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