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Nokia-Siemens delivers equipment for Turkmenistan dictatorship's cellular network

Is Nokia-Siemens' system part of the wire-tapping network previously built by Siemens for the Turkmenistan government in order to oppress their citizens?

Shadow of the Holy Book, which details international corporations' immoral activities in the dictatorship of Turkmenistan opens in cinemas in Finland on Friday 29.2, and will continue cinema and TV distribution around the world.

According to a news bulletin published by the Turkmenistan government, Nokia-Siemens Networks is planning and producing equipment for Turkmenistan cellular network. The contract made with the Turkmenistan government is worth $9,2 million and the network system is billed to be ready in June 2008. Nokia-Siemens itself has not issued any statement about the deal.

Several Turkmen dissidents and human rights activists living in exile are afraid that Nokia-Siemens is supporting a repressive government through their business activities, and that the network will be part of the wire-tapping system previously built and designed for Turkmenistan by Siemens. The wire-tapping system has been previously reported by Der Spiegel publication, and several exiled dissidents and human rights activists. The work on the system began in the 1990s and was completed in the year 2004. Included in the wire-tapping network are telephones, faxes, the Internet, e-mail and satellite phones. The targets of wire-tapping are those suspected to be dissidents, government officials, embassies, international organisations and tourists. According to opposition sources, by means of this system several dissidents have been arrested.

Holmurad Sojunov, an ex-parliamentary member of Turkmenistan living in exile, says that via the Nokia-Siemens network the state's secret police can develop its wire-tapping into an all-encompassing system, because the network dating to ex-Soviet times does not have equal reliability.

Farid Tuhbatullin, a Turkmen human rights activist also living in exile, is in turn afraid that Nokia-Siemens will risk its authority and image by linking itself to the new Turkmenistan dictator Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov.

Holmurad Sojunov hopes that Nokia-Siemens will stop collaborating with the illegal dictatorship of Turkmenistan: ?When the dictatorship unravels, Nokia-Siemens and other companies that have operated in Turkmenistan will be in trouble. The Secret Files will be opened and everything will come out into public and people can seek moral and material compensation.?

The Reporters without Borders organisation has for years classed Turkmenistan's freedom of speech and human rights situation within the worst three in the world. At the same time Turkmenistan is one of the biggest gas and oil producers in the world. Turkmenistan's riches tempt international companies despite the problematic moral implications.

Shadow of the Holy Book, directed by Arto Halonen, shows how by translating and praising Turkmenistan's dictator Saparmurat Niyazov's pseudo-religious book of propaganda, the Ruhnama, international companies have been allowed to make deals worth millons with his dictatorship. The Ruhnama (the Book of the Soul) and the support from international companies linked into it has simultaneously helped the dictatorship to stay alive.

In the film, a number of companies avoid the sensitive subject, but several company directors are brave enough to speak in front of the camera. The Finnish Ensto undertook translation of the Ruhnama, but stopped the process after it began to understand the serious human rights situation in Turkmenistan. Thereafter Ensto lost its business opportunity in Turkmenistan. Ensto's chairman, Timo Miettinen, makes an apology in the film on behalf of the company. According to Miettinen all the other companies who have had the Ruhnama translated and supported the Turkmenistan dictatorship indirectly should apologise publicly for their actions in Turkmenistan.

Siemens is also one of the companies for whose praise of the Ruhnama has opened doors in Turkmenistan. Before the merging of Nokia-Siemens in spring 2007, the director of Shadow of the Holy Book, Arto Halonen, and his co-screenwriter Kevin Frazier, informed Nokia and the future leadership of Nokia-Siemens about the actions of Siemens in Turkmenistan (i.e. the Ruhnama links and the delivery of the wire-tapping system). Nokia, however, did not want to comment on the subject or discuss it further.

A short documentary has been produced about these dealings with Nokia, Nokia-Siemens avoids discussion, and it can be found on the FreedomForSale website, which investigates morality in international trade (www.freedomforsale.org).

The leadership of Nokia-Siemens has also refrained from comment to the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat on the network system that is being created in Turkmenistan. The company's management was content to state that because Turkmenistan is not currently the subject of any international embargo, Nokia-Siemens does not acknowledge any need for restraint upon doing business within its borders.

Nokia also delivers mobile phones to Turkmenistan dictatorship through it's mediator, and is a clear market leader in the country.

Hudaiberdy Orazov, the exiled former head of National Bank of Turkmenistan, and former corresponding prime minister, condemns Nokia's and other companies support for Turkemenistan dictatorship: ?Companies like Buouygues and Siemens that operate in Turkmenistan don't only discredit their countries inside their borders, but also operate different dirty assignments on dictatorhips billing abroad. If foreign companies wouldn't have shown political and technical supoort for a dictatorship, Niyazov and his predecessor's power would have not lasted that long?.