Ogulsapar Muradova died while in custody of the Turkmen government. She was 58.
Based in the capital city of Ashgabat, Ogulsapar Muradova reported on human rights issues in Turkmenistan for RFE/RL. A staunch defender of human rights, she was also a member of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization, based in Bulgaria, for the promotion of human rights in Turkmenistan. She also worked for the French television production company Galaxie-Presse.
In a sweeping campaign by the Turkmen government to crack down on dissidents, Ogulsapar Muradova was arrested with two others on June 18, 2006. Authorities gave no reason for the arrests at the time. The Washington Post reported that Muradova’s three adult children were arrested the day after her arrest and were held in isolation at the interior ministry for two weeks without being charged.
On August 25, after a two-hour closed trial, Muradova was sentenced to six years in jail on charges of illegal possession of ammunition. The two arrested with her, Amandurdy Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khajiev, who were also associated with the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation, were sentenced to seven years each. All three were held incommunicado at Ovodan Depe high-security prison, notorious for its harsh conditions, during their detention.
Human Rights Watch reports that Muradova’s son, Berdy Muradov, learned of his mother’s death when he was summoned to the morgue to collect her body. Officials reportedly refused to show him Muradova’s body and threatened unspecified consequences if he did not stop asking for access. When the body was eventually released on September 14, 2006, after Western diplomats accompanied Muradova’s children to the morgue, family members reported seeing marks of torture and a “large wound” on the journalist’s head. Officials at the mortuary insisted she had died of “natural causes” and denied any wrongdoing.
Turkmen authorities refused the family’s request for an autopsy and did not disclose the cause or date of death. A government autopsy, whose results were never released to the family or made public, reportedly found that Muradova died from blows to the back of her head. According to a report by Reporters without Borders (RSF), there were indications that she died at least four days before her body was released and that her death was the result of torture.
She is survived by her son and two daughters, Sona and Maral Muradova.