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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Citizen Detained in Turkmen Shooting

A U.S. citizen is among 23 suspects being held in Ashgabat on suspicion of plotting the assassination attempt on Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov last week, Niyazov's spokesman said Tuesday.

Leonid Komarovsky, 55, was detained last Tuesday in the Ashgabat residence of his close friend and business associate Guvanch Dzhumayev, spokesman Serdar Durdyev said by telephone from Ashgabat.

Dzhumayev, who was jailed along with his father, brother and son on Nov. 25, the day of the attack, is suspected of being the main conspirator, Durdyev said.

The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat said it has unsuccessfully been trying to meet with Komarovsky, a businessman who wrote for the popular "In the Spotlight of Perestroika" current affairs show on Channel One television in the late 1980s.

Niyazov's motorcade came under fire while he was driving through Ashgabat to work. Niyazov escaped uninjured.

Komarovsky's wife, Galina, called her husband's detention absurd, saying he was in Turkmenistan exploring the possibilities of starting imports of Czech beer. "If my husband was not in jail, it would have been ridiculous to suspect that he might be involved in shooting or plotting to shoot from a gun at Niyazov's car," she said by telephone from the couple's home in Newton, Massachusetts.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Shannon Runyon said the embassy was trying to get permission to meet with Komarovsky. "We are aware that an individual who is a U.S. citizen was detained in Turkmenistan, and we are currently seeking consular access to him," she said.

She would not say when a meeting might take place.

Galina Komarovskaya said Dzhumayev's wife had told her by telephone that embassy officials and a lawyer would visit her husband Wednesday.

She said Komarovsky and Dzhumayev were business partners in the early 1990s until she moved with her husband to the United States in 1994.

"Recently they decided to resurrect part of their former business," she said, adding that Komarovsky had spent a lot of time in Ashgabat lately and always stayed in Dzhumayev's home.

He arrived in Ashgabat just four days before being jailed, she said.

Dzhumayev published an independent newspaper in the early 1990s that was shut down by Turkmen authorities for its critical coverage, Komarovskaya said. He currently imports pharmaceutical goods, she said.

Niyazov's spokesman Durdyev did not say whether Komarovsky has been charged. He refused to elaborate on the role Komarovsky was suspected of playing in the assassination attempt.

If charged and found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, Komarovsky could be jailed for up to 20 years in jail or put to death under Turkmen law.

Niyazov has run the energy-rich Central Asian country with an iron grip since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

In addition to the 23 jailed suspects, Turkmenistan has accused former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov and three other formerly high-ranking officials of organizing the assassination attempt. All four are living in exile.