Turkmen Leader Pardons More Than 2,000 Convicts On Norouz

Turkmenistan's president has pardoned 2,028 prisoners, state media reported.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was quoted March 21 as saying that the amnesty was linked to the Norouz new year holiday.

Berdymukhammedov, an authoritarian ruler who controls all aspects of Turkmen society, has issued such decrees several times a year, usually on the eve of state holidays.

His predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, issued similar amnesty decrees once a year during Ramadan.

Norouz is the preIslamic Persian New Year celebration of spring that starts on the vernal equinox, which usually occurs around March 20. It is marked in many countries in Western and Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans.

Berdymukhammedov's previous act of clemency, announced in December, pardoned 796 inmates to mark the International Day of Neutrality.

Turkmenistan has been recognized by the United Nations as a permanently neutral state since December 1995.

Such acts of clemency usually do not cover political prisoners.

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