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Jailed RFE/RL journalist died in custody - rights group.

Jailed RFE/RL journalist died in custody - rights group

ANKARA, 14 Sep 2006 (IRIN) - An imprisoned Turkmen journalist, Ogulsapar Muradova, who had been working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was reported dead in custody on Thursday, according to the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation (THF).

"Muradova’s children were asked to come to a morgue [in the capital, Ashgabat] today. They were not shown her body, but were told to sign a document stating they had been informed [of her death],■ Tajigul Begmedova, head of THF, said from the Bulgarian town of Varna where the organisation is based.

"Later the body was released to the family and it showed clear signs of violence and torture - severe bruising and large wounds to the head," Begmedova added.

Muradova, along with Annakurban Amanklychev, who worked for the French media company, Galaxie-Presse, were sentenced by a Turkmen court to six- and seven-year jail terms respectively on 25 August for illegally possessing ammunition.

Sapardurdy Khajiev, a human rights activist with THF based in Turkmenistan, was jailed for seven years in a high security prison for the same offence.

The RFE/RL journalist was taken from her home in Ashgabat by police on 18 June. Family members had not been allowed to visit Muradova and had only twice been allowed to send her a package of food and medication, RFE/RL said in a statement earlier.

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov▓s regime is among the worst human rights offenders in the world, according to a recent report released by Freedom House on 6 September. ’The Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies 2006’, is an annual compilation of the most dictatorial regimes in the world.

The Turkmen government has neither confirmed nor denied the reported death of the journalist, while THF called for an international action.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB), an international media freedom watchdog, has reported that Niyazov is on their international list of 35 predators of press freedom. Turkmenistan ranked 165 (third from the bottom) on RWB’s 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index. Only Eritrea and North Korea have a worse record.

IRIN News September 14, 2006

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