Vienna 14 September 2006. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) is dismayed at reports that Turkmen journalist and human rights defender Ogulsapar Muradova has died in custody while serving a prison sentence on apparently politically motivated charges.
The circumstances of Muradova’s death remain unclear, but relatives who saw her body earlier today reported that it bore signs of torture, including a large wound on the forehead and strangulation marks on the neck. Security officials insisted that Muradova’s death was natural and rejected a demand by her relatives that the body to be examined by an independent doctor. As of this writing, the body had been handed over to Muradova’s three adult children, while their contacts to the outside world were restricted.
Muradova was arrested in June 2006 together with two other human rights activists and on 25 August she was sentenced to six years in prison for illegal possession of weapons in a closed trial that fell seriously short of international human rights standards. Prior to the trial, Muradova was also accused of engaging in “subversive activities” and distributing “slanderous information” about Turkmenistan and there are credible allegations that she was administered psychopathic drugs in an attempt to force her to “confess” to these accusations. The IHF and other human rights organizations criticized the charges against Muradova and her colleagues as groundless and designed to punish them for their legitimate human rights work and criticism of official policies.
The Turkmen government has a long history of persecuting dissidents and of silencing those who dare to speak out about the widespread human rights violations in the country through intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, fabricated charges and torture.
The IHF recalls the responsibility of the Turkmen government for the well-being of those in its custody and urges the Turkmen authorities to conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances of the death of Ogulsapar Muradova. Independent international experts should be invited to participate in the investigation and the results of it should be made public. If the investigation shows that Muradova died as a result of torture and ill-treatment the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
For more information and interviews please contact IHF Executive Director Aaron Rhodes, +43-676635 66 12
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights September 14, 2006