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Independent Online: Europe 'ignoring Turkmen human rights abuses' - by Jerome Taylor

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Europe 'ignoring Turkmen human rights abuses' - by Jerome Taylor

The EU has been accused of ignoring human rights abuses in Turkmenistan by considering a trade agreement with the repressive former Soviet republic despite a recent crackdown on political dissidents and human rights activists.A delegation of five MEPs returned from the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, yesterday following a fact-finding mission to see if the EU could breath life into a trade agreement with Turkmenistan and tap into the country's huge gas reserves.

Martin Callanan, one of the five MEPs on the fact-finding mission, yesterday accused the EU of ignoring human rights abuses for commercial benefit. "The EU is being completely hypocritical," he said. "We isolate a country like Belarus, which isn't half as repressive as Turkmenistan but the sad reality is that Belarus doesn't have lots of gas and oil reserves."In the past week, Turkmen security forces have arrested three human rights activists and four of their relatives in what campaigners say is one of the worst crackdowns on civil society since November 2002

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