MOSCOW (AP)--Relatives of a Turkmen journalist who died while in prison face harassment from authorities in the repressive Central Asian nation and could face imprisonment themselves, an international reporters watchdog warned Friday.
Human rights groups say Ogulsapar Muradova, a reporter with U.S.-funded Radio Liberty, was tortured while in prison in Turkmenistan. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said last week that her body, after it was released by authorities, was found to have a major head wound and there was evidence of strangulation.
Reporters Without Borders said in a statement Friday that three of Muradova’s children, as well as their friends, have had their phones disconnected and their home is under constant surveillance. The children have also been fired from their jobs, the Paris-based group said.
"We fear that Muradova’s children could suffer the same fate as she did, or could be deported to a location that is unknown to anyone but the police," the group said.
Muradova, who also worked with the Bulgaria-based Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation, and two other rights defenders were arrested in June, and in August were given sentences of between six and seven years for illegal possession of ammunition, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Radio Liberty said earlier that Turkmen authorities had declined the family’s request that a medical examiner at the morgue conduct an examination, but allowed Muradova’s two adult daughters to take their mother’s body home after they appealed to the U.S. Embassy for help.
The family called a medical examiner, but Turkmen security agents surrounded the apartment building allowed no visitors to the Muradova family, it said.
Turkmenistan’s autocratic president, Saparmurat Niyazov, has been in power since before the 1991 Soviet collapse, rules the desert nation with an iron fist. He tolerates no dissent and has developed an elaborate personality cult around himself.
Despite its grim human rights record, Turkmenistan has attracted sizable foreign investment because of its massive natural gas deposits.
Dow Jones International News September 22, 2006