Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) reporter Gaspar Matalaev remains imprisoned on false charges of fraud, despite multiple promises to his family that he would be released. Matalaev was arrested the night of October 4, 2016, two days after his report on state-orchestrated forced labor of children and adults in Turkmenistan’s cotton harvest was posted on ATN’s website. He reportedly confessed to fraud charges while being tortured with electroshocks, though when he was arrested police told him it was related to photographs he posted on the internet.
Matalaev is one of the few independent monitors working undercover to reveal the state-run nature of forced and child labor during cotton harvests in one of the world’s most authoritarian countries. The Government treats refusal to contribute to the cotton harvest as insubordination, incitement to sabotage, and even ‘contempt of the homeland.’
Please sign our petition below to demand the Turkmen Government immediately release Gaspar and allow him to continue his work in safety.
Dear Turkmen President Berdimuhamedow:
I call on you to immediately release Mr. Gaspar Matalaev from detention and allow him to continue his work as an independent monitor on the use of forced labor in the annual cotton harvest in Turkmenistan.
Mr. Matalaev was detained by Turkmenistan police on October 5, 2016 and reportedly subjected to torture by electric current to force a confession to charges of ‘fraud’. Though the charges against him are minor, the Turkmen authorities have refused to release Mr. Matalaev, despite allowing others charged with the same offense to go free.
We call on you to release Mr. Matalaev as a matter of urgency and to work with civil society actors like him to end forced labor in your cotton industry.