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RFE/RL Correspondent Dies In Turkmen Custody.

RFE/RL Correspondent Dies In Turkmen Custody.

PRAGUE, September 14, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Family members say they were notified today by security officials of the death in custody of RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondent Ogulsapar Muradova.

One of Muradova’s relatives in Ashgabat, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, said security officials contacted family members and took them to the morgue to identify the body.

However, the relative said Muradova’s family refused to sign a discharge form and left.

Wounds Reported On The Body

In a statement obtained by RFE/RL, an exiled Turkmen rights group says relatives went back to the morgue later and were authorized to see the body.

The Turkmen Helsinki Foundation (THF) quotes Muradova’s children as saying the body the neck and has a "large wound" on the head.

"When [relatives] demanded that an independent doctor be allowed to examine the body, the morgue employees started threatening them," an activist said.

THF describes Muradova’s death as a "political assassination."

The time and circumstances of Muradova’s death are unclear. It is also not known in which prison she was held.

The relative interviewed by RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service said security officials at the morgue assured the family that Muradova died of natural causes and denied any wrongdoing.

Those officials, who said they were "servicemen," also claimed they had nothing to do with Muradova’s arrest and detention, telling relatives they should blame the National Security Ministry instead.

’An Astonishingly Healthy Woman’

THF Chairwoman Tajigul Begmedova reminisces about her apprehensions following Muradova’s arrest.

"She was an astonishingly healthy woman," Begmedova said. "She had absolutely no health problems. Only after she was arrested she started asking for medicine. We then said it was strange that a healthy person should have health problems all of a sudden. Now she’s dead and should authorities say she died on health grounds, it would be a sheer lie."

Begmedova says she talked to Muradova’s children after they first went to the morgue.

"When they demanded that an independent doctor be allowed to examine the body, the morgue employees started threatening them," Begmedova said.

Relatives say two U.S. Embassy employees asked to see the body, but morgue employees did not allow them in.

Embassy officials were not immediately available for comment.

Detained In June

Muradova was detained in mid-June along with several human rights activists.

Authorities gave no reason for the arrests at the time.

National Security Minister Geldymukhammed Ashirmukhammedov later accused one of the detainees, Annakurban Amanklychev, of being involved in an alleged conspiracy to overthrow President Saparmurat Niyazov’s government.

Muradova, Amanklychev, and a third defendant -- Sapardurdy Khajiev -- were sentenced on August 25 to up to seven years in jail on charges of the illegal possession of ammunition.

Rights groups have said the charges were fabricated and condemned the trial as a parody of justice.

RFE/RL September 14, 2006

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