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Turkmen TV Airs Suspect’s Confession

December 4, 2002

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ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) _ State television aired a taped confession by a chief suspect in an assassination attempt against Turkmenistan’s authoritarian leader on Tuesday, and officials confirmed that a U.S. citizen also is being held in the case.

In footage filmed by prosecutors, Guvanch Dzhumayev, a prominent Turkmen businessman, begged for forgiveness for his role in the plot against President Saparmurat Niyazov, saying he ``fell into a web.″

``Now I am repentant, I’m very repentant,″ Dzhumayev said. ``Execute me, I’m ready for that.″

Niyazov’s motorcade came under fire Nov. 25 while he was on his way to work in the capital Ashgabat. The president was unharmed but four police officers were injured, Prosecutor General Gurbanbibi Atadzhanova said Tuesday.

The government says four former government officials who now live in exile organized the attack. The four already faced charges at home for allegedly embezzling state property.

Twenty-three people have been arrested in the plot, including U.S. citizen Leonid Komarovsky, Atadzhanova said. She said Komarovsky was riding in one of the gunmen’s vehicles but gave no further details about his alleged involvement.

Komarovsky’s family in Newton, Mass., told The Associated Press on Monday that he was arrested the day after the assassination during a business trip to Turkmenistan. The family said Komarovsky had been staying with Dzhumayev, whom the family described as an old friend and business partner.

In televised remarks, Atadzhanova described Komarovsky as ``a mercenary from Moldova with an American passport.″ Komarovsky’s family said he immigrated to the United States from Russia.

Atadzhanova said it was ``completely proven″ that former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov masterminded the plot from Russia.

``He wanted to take power in Turkmenistan through force and to change the existing constitutional order,″ she said.

The government accuses Dzhumayev of being the attack’s main organizer within Turkmenistan. In his taped confession, Dzhumayev said he acted on orders from Shikhmuradov.

Dzhumayev’s father, son and younger brother are also under arrest, and the businessman pleaded for clemency toward them.

Dzhumayev heads a major trading company that sells pharmaceuticals and building materials, and produces vodka. According to the Moscow Helsinki Group, a respected Russian human rights organization, Dzhumayev published an independent newspaper in the early 1990s that was shut down by Turkmen authorities for its critical reporting.

Komarovsky was in Turkmenistan to explore the possibility of doing business with Dzhumayev to import liquor from the Czech Republic, his family said.

Niyazov has led Turkmenistan since 1985, when it was still a part of the Soviet Union. He has resisted moves toward democracy and economic reforms and cracked down on dissent, forcing many opposition figures into exile. A personality cult has grown up around Niyazov, with his portrait adorning the national currency and most public buildings.

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