Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has issued a pardon to more than 2,000 prisoners ahead of the former Soviet state’s Independence Day on September 27.
State media reported on September 20 that the authoritarian president signed a decree releasing 2,064 prisoners based on the “principles of mercy and humanism bequeathed by our great ancestors.”
Six of the pardoned prisoners are reportedly foreign nationals from unspecified countries.
Berdymukhammedov, who rules the closed country with an iron fist, issues such pardons several times a year, usually on the eve of state or religious holidays. Such acts usually do not cover political prisoners.
In May, Berdymukhammedov released more than 1,000 prisoners, including 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses who had refused compulsory military service, on the occasion of the Night of Revelation, an important holiday during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In December last year, another 2,082 people were amnestied, including four foreign citizens, to mark the national Neutrality Day holiday.
The latest pardon comes after RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service reported earlier this month that prisons in the country are suffering from large outbreaks of COVID-19 and shortages of food and medicine.
The government has not publicly confirmed a single coronavirus infection since the start of the pandemic last year despite reports of overwhelmed hospitals and the introduction of health measures in all regions of the country.