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On December 30, 2002 the People's Council of Turkmenistan was shown footage of Shikhmuradov's trial where he disclosed some details of his attempt to stage a coup d'etat and assassinate the President of Turkmenistan. He was speaking rather quietly, clearly and looking absolutely sober. The pile of past and late crimes committed by him was read out by the presiding judge, but the substance of the event that in the end resulted in bringing Shikhmuradov before a court was quite sharply described by himself: "the border between political opposition and open banditry has turned out to be too fine". Very much so. The opponents are being argued with, but bandits are usually brought to justice. That is why all appeals to OSCE, International human rights organizations in this case are irrelevant, because the trial here, I am sorry, is not over Sakharov. These appeals could "work" before but not after November 25. The point is that that day Shikhmuradov did not use political arguments but the gun-machines. Nowhere in the world a bandit (of whatever ideology) can be equated to political opposition by the justice. Personal background has nothing to do with it. Any high ranks a person hold in the past is not a pardon and cannot guarantee a comfortable prison cell. The opponents of Islamic fundamentalists could disagree in the press with Mullah Omar, the leader of Taliban in Afghanistan, before September 11, but they never did it after that day. Then Mullah Omar became an object to search by the secret services of various countries as a very dangerous person. I do not refer to this to draw analogues - the scale is too different - but the core of the event is quite of the same nature - missionary in provinces, conviction in permissiveness and terror as a result.
Therefore it is not only against the spirit and letter of the law but immoral to attach politics to this case. The population of Turkmenistan is hurt in its feelings not only by the fact that Shikhmuradov's group planned to change the Constitutional structures of the country and disgrace people that represent them, but also by the astounding and beyond apprehension disregard of the people's opinion. "Who gave them a right?" is a frequently asked question these days. Why a dozen of dismissed bureaucrats declared themselves the only mouthpiece of the will of the six million people. Why these people were at best viewed as a mere figurant in realization of the so-called "interim period program" with unknown contents? And finally, why all that did not fit in the frames of Bonaparte's intentions of the Provisional Executive Council of the People's Democratic Movement of Turkmenistan used to come under gross slander and denounced as a crime? But this is rhetoric.
As a whole, if to call things by names, the events of November 25 serve as an example of the classical attempt of nomenclature's coup generously seasoned with a family solidarity. As any other event of such a kind it had neither any significant social ground nor basic theoretical platform nor any shred of honest intentions that could inspire at least common sympathy. That is why today all participants and organizers of this act of terror look more like bully schoolboys than evil men or "freedom fighters". I recall the members of Emergency State Committee of 1991 and the famous words of marshal Yazov "forgive me, the old fool man". Shikhmuradov's "deeply regret" seems to come from the same opera. Against this background the pathos fabrication about his voluntary (after month of deliberations) turning to captivity made by his "comrades" and published in the press looks like bald poor PR.

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By Serdar Muradov

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