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Turkmen prez denies jailing dissidents

March 23, 2005 at 12:56 PM

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan, March 23 (UPI) -- There are no political prisoners in Turkmenistan, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told a press conference Wednesday.

"We do not have people arrested for political motives. There are several people, wanted criminals, who stay abroad under the guise of refugees and spread filthy rumors. Don't believe all that written rubbish," Niyazov said after discussing his meeting with visiting Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Interfax reported.

Niyazov was responding to comments Yushchenko had made at the press conference championing the principles of human rights and democracy, Interfax said.

"Democracy, freedom or liberty are not just empty words for me and my partners in the Ukrainian government coalition," Yushchenko said. "We will defend the values in which we believe and for which we have struggled. I want to be honest with my children and my nation. Maybe what counts most is not just that some problems exist. What really matters is that there should be a will to overcome them, and Ukraine has such a will."

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