GENEVA (AP)--The U.N. on Friday said it was "very disturbed" by the death of a human rights activist and journalist in Turkmenistan, and called for an independent investigation.
Jose Diaz, spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, said U.N. officials were monitoring the case of Ogulsapar Muradova’s death.
The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights announced that Muradova’s body had been seen by her relatives Thursday. The group’s director blamed the government for what he said appeared to have been her violent death.
"We are very disturbed about the death in a Turkmen prison of Ogulsapar Muradova," Diaz told reporters at the U.N.’s European headquarters in Geneva. "We urge the Turkmen authorities to conduct a thorough, prompt and independent investigation into the cause of her death, including an independent medical examination of the body, and to make public the results of that inquiry."
Muradova was affiliated with Bulgaria-based Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation, and was a reporter with U.S.-funded Radio Liberty. She and two other rights defenders were arrested in June and later sentenced to between six to seven years, according to the International Helsinki Foundation.
Diaz said authorities had charged her with "illegal arms possession after a trial widely reported to be unfair." He called her "a human rights defender."
The global body’s rights office, Diaz said, was concerned about the fate of Amankurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khajiyev, the two others associated with the Bulgaria-based group who were arrested with Muradova.
The media freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders also has demanded a full investigation into Muradova’s death.
Another media rights group Friday expressed dismay with how Turkmen authorities "have not yet made public the time and cause of death."
"Their secretive conduct, combined with unofficial accounts of wounds found on her body, raise suspicions of foul play," said Joel Simon, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Dow Jones International News September 15, 2006