Turkmen activist allowed into human rights conference in Warsaw after initial rejection

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Turkmen activist allowed into human rights meeting

WARSAW, Poland — An exiled opposition activist from Turkmenistan was allowed into a human rights conference in Poland on Wednesday after initially being barred because of objections from his country — partly defusing an incident that drew criticism from the U.S., the European Union and Canada.

The incident occurred at a meeting this week of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a trans-Atlantic group of 56 countries devoted to security and human rights.

The meeting runs through Friday and is being held before an OSCE summit later this year in Kazakhstan.

Two Turkmen activists were denied entry by OSCE organizers when they arrived Monday because of objections against them by Turkmenistan, an authoritarian former Soviet state.

One, Annadurdy Khajiev, was finally admitted Wednesday around noon, a couple of days after he arrived at the conference.

He smiled as he told The Associated Press that he had just been given admission by Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country which holds the rotating chairmanship of the organization.

Khajiev had pre-registered a month earlier and considered it unfair that he be denied entry. A second activist, Nurmuhammet Hanamov, was still waiting for word on whether he could attend. He, however, had not registered in advance, and it wasn’t clear if his case would be resolved.

Western diplomats were worried that the rejection of the activists — critics of their government who have attended OSCE meetings for years without hindrance — would set a precedent allowing states with weak democratic credentials to arbitrarily reject domestic critics.

Both of the Turkmen activists described the OSCE meetings as an important venue for activists because it is one of few international bodies that allows them to sit at meetings as equal partners with member states and be heard.

“The government might be able to ignore critics at home but it is forced to listen to them at these meetings,” Khajiev said.

The OSCE said Turkmenistan originally objected to the two activists’ presence.

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