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IPI Deeply Concerned at Death of RFE/RL Correspondent in Turkmenistan.

PI Deeply Concerned at Death of RFE/RL Correspondent in Turkmenistan.

15 September 2006 PRESS RELEASE According to information before IPI, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Turkmen Service correspondent Ogulsapar Muradova died in custody while serving a prison sentence on charges that were said to be politically motivated. Her relatives were notified by police on 14 September, but the circumstances of her death remain unclear.

Based on media reports, Muradova’s body bore signs of torture, and there were marks on her neck and a head wound. In an interview with RFE/RL, Muradova’s relatives said security officials at the morgue assured the family that she died of natural causes, but rejected the family’s demand that the body should be examined by an independent doctor.

Muradova was detained on 18 June along with several human rights activists. No reason was given for the arrests at the time, but National Security Minister Geldymukhammed Ashirmukhammedov later accused one of the detainees, Annakurban Amanklychev, of planning to overthrow President Saparmurat Niyazov’s government.

On 25 August, Muradova was sentenced to six years in prison by the Azatlyk district court in Ashgabat for illegal possession of ammunition. The trial, which reportedly lasted under two hours, was closed to the public. Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khajiev, who is also a human rights activist, were sentenced to seven years in jail. Many human rights groups condemned the trial as a parody of justice and said the charges were fabricated. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) said Muradova was accused of engaging in "subversive activities" and distributing "slanderous information" about Turkmenistan prior to her trial. The possibility that she was administered psychopathic drugs in an attempt to force her to confess was also not excluded by IHF.

Regarding Muradova’s death, IPI Director Johann Fritz said, "Freedom of the media is virtually non-existent in Turkmenistan, and the government has often resorted to intimidation, detention and fabricated charges as a means of silencing its critics."

"IPI is very concerned about the safety of all journalists trying to report in the country, and would like to remind the Turkmen government of everyone’s right to ‘seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’ as guaranteed by Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Muradova’s death must be investigated by impartial international experts, and those responsible must be brought to justice, if it is determined that she died of unnatural causes."

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