WARSAW, Poland – Two exiled opposition activists from Turkmenistan have been barred from a human rights conference in Warsaw, apparently because their country objected to their presence, prompting criticism Tuesday from the United States, the European Union and Canada.
The incident occurred during a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 56-member group devoted to security and human rights issues that includes the United States, Western European democracies and several authoritarian former Soviet states.
Kazakhstan, a country in Central Asian under pressure to implement democratic reforms, currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the group.
The meeting in Warsaw continues through Friday. It is being held in preparation for an OSCE summit later this year in Kazakhstan involving the members' heads of state and government.
Michael Guest, head of the U.S. delegation to the Warsaw meeting, said the U.S. considers it "unacceptable" to shun members of civil society at a major international rights conference. "Such action is injurious to the OSCE as an organization and as a community of values," he said.
The two Turkmen are Nurmuhammet Hanamov, founding chairman of the Republican Party of Turkmenistan who lives in exile in Vienna, and Annadurdy Khajiev, a former deputy head of the Central Bank of Turkmenistan who lives in Bulgaria.
Frane Maroevic, a spokesman for OSCE, a Vienna-based group, said Hanamov could not get in because he had not registered ahead of time and "just turned up and demanded to be allowed entry." But others said that could have easily been resolved after the meeting began Sept. 30.
Maroevic said Khajiev was denied entry because Turkmenistan says that he has been accused of criminal offenses and that his participation would be inappropriate.
It was not clear why Kazakhstan complied with Turkmenistan's wish to have the dissidents barred.
Guest told The Associated Press that both had attended several similar OSCE conferences in the past.
The EU said it "strongly regrets" that the two were not allowed to participate and demanded that they be admitted.
Canada issued a statement saying that keeping the two out would "create an unfortunate and regrettable precedent."
"We attach great importance to the full participation of civil society at OSCE events," Canada's statement said.