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Posted by admin on 2006/9/15 22:07:00 (980 reads)

The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, the body which governs official U.S. overseas broadcasting, has issued a resolution demanding an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the death in custody of Ogulsapar Muradova, a human rights activist with the Bulgaria-based Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation rights group who was also a reporter with U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Muradova and two colleagues, Amankurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khajiyev, were arrested in June in an operation described by the Turkmen government as a clampdown on an underground network seeking to destabilise the Central Asian state and were subsequently handed down sentences ranging from six to seven years (see Turkmenistan: 21 June 2006: ).

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) declared that it was "shocked" by reports of Muradova's death, releasing a statement calling on the European Union (EU), the United States and Russia to demand a full explanation from the Turkmen authorities surrounding Muradova's death. RFE/RL claimed that Turkmen authorities had declined the family's request that a medical examination be done at the morgue but allowed Muradova's children to take their mother's body home after they appealed for help to the U.S. Embassy.Significance: The suspicious death of Muradova in custody will fuel the flames surrounding the alleged spy ring in Turkmenistan, which the authorities claim involved western diplomats who financed a human-rights training session in Ukraine; which the Turkmen government believes was established with the backing of western governments with the aim of overthrowing the regime.

Ben Wetherall
Global Insight Daily Analysis
September 15, 2006

Posted by admin on 2006/9/14 23:55:00 (1029 reads)

New York, September 14, 2006―The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores the death in prison of a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Turkmenistan. CPJ called for an inquiry into the death of Ogulsapar Muradova of RFE/RL’s Turkmen service whose body was released to her family today.

One Turkmen human rights group which had spoken with relatives said Muradova had suffered head and neck injuries.

Authorities in the capital Ashgabat handed over the body only after Western diplomats accompanied Muradova’s children to the morgue, the station’s Turkmen service director Aleksandr Narodetsky told CPJ. They declined the family’s request for an autopsy and did not disclose the cause or date of death.

Security forces surrounded the Muradova home and prevented people from seeing the body or contacting Muradova’s relatives whose telephones have been cut.

Following her detention, Muradova, 58, was held incommunicado and denied legal counsel. She was convicted of possessing ammunition and sentenced to six years in jail on August 25 after a closed-door trial that lasted only minutes. See CPJ’s news alert:

“We mourn the death of our colleague Ogulsapar Muradova,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Authorities have not yet made public the time and cause of death but their secretive conduct, combined with unofficial accounts of wounds found on her body, raise suspicions of foul play.”

The Turkmen Helsinki Foundation, a human rights organization operating from Bulgaria, released a statement, saying that Muradova’s body showed a large head wound and bruises around the neck. It spoke with her adult children Sona and Maral before the telephones were cut. RFE/RL’s Narodetsky also said that the children reported that their mother had a head wound.

An official at the Turkmen embassy in the United States said that the embassy was unaware of Muradova’s case.

The Turkmen Helsinki Foundation Local human rights activists said Muradova had been drugged in jail, tortured, and coerced to confess to “illegal activities.”

The fate of two local human rights activists, who were tried and imprisoned on identical charges along with Muradova remains unknown. Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiyev, were sentenced to seven years in prison in the same closed trial.

U.S. government-funded RFE/RL was the last foreign broadcaster to maintain a network of correspondents in the secretive Central Asian state, which is tightly controlled by Saparmurat Niyazov, declared president for life in 1999.

Committee to Protect Journalists
September 14, 2006

Posted by admin on 2006/9/14 23:54:00 (939 reads)

International rights organizations have expressed outrage at news that RFE/RL's Turkmen Service correspondent Ogulsapar Muradova died in custody. They blame Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's government for what they say appears to be an extrajudiciary execution and call upon the international community to press Ashgabat to shed light on the journalist's death.

PRAGUE, 14 September 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) media watchdog said it was "shocked" by reports of Muradova's death.

Talking to RFE/RL from Paris, the RSF's Elsa Vidal said the group has called for a protest meeting in the French capital.

Protest Started

"We have decided to demonstrate outside Turkmenistan's Embassy in Paris so that this murder will not be left unpunished and at least we [do not remain] silent," she said.

Talking to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service from the embassy's building a few hours later, RSF editor Jean-Francois Julliard said some 30 people had gathered there and were seeking to meet with the Turkmen ambassador.

"We won't leave the embassy until we have news about what [really] happened to Ogulsapar," he said.

Muradova's children say security officials notified them of their mother's death today. Family members were eventually authorized to see Muradova's body.

Wounds Seen

They were subsequently quoted by the exiled Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (THF) as saying the corpse had marks on the neck and a "large wound" on the forehead.

Security officials, however, claim Muradova died of natural causes.

But for THF chairwoman Tajigul Begmedova, there is no doubt Muradova was killed.

"We're confronted with the active political assassination of Ogulsapar Muradova, an RFE/RL journalist and a former human rights activist," she said. "We have all reasons to say that [she] died of a violent death after being tortured and offended."

Aaron Rhodes, the executive director of the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), also says he believes Muradova died violently.

Trumped Up Charges?

"It appears that she has been summarily executed by the authorities, which she certainly doesn't deserve, and nobody does," he said.

Muradova was arrested in mid-June with several human rights activists and her three adult children without explanation.

Her children were later released. But the journalist and two codefendants -- THF activists Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khajiev -- were sentenced on August 25 to up to seven years in jail on charges of illegally possessing ammunition, charges that rights groups say were fabricated.

Rhodes says his and other organizations have had serious concerns about the detentions and the trial.

Seeking An Explanation

"IHF and quite a few other human rights groups have appealed to the Turkmen authorities about this case beginning on July 17," he said. "We have been worried about the status of these prisoners who [were] detained without explanation and eventually sentenced in a kind of a show trial which does not meet international standards of due process and to which no member of the international community was allowed to access to observe. The trial lasted something like 10 minutes and does not satisfy anyone that there was a serious examination of guilt or innocence before the law."

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) today called upon Turkmen authorities to shed light on Muradova's death.

Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service that he was "quite shaken" and "very sad" by news of the journalist's death.

Haraszti also said he regretted that Muradova did not have time to appeal the court decision that sentenced her to jail.

September 14, 2006

Posted by admin on 2006/9/14 23:53:00 (1040 reads)

Calling for a full investigation into how she died, the press freedom organisation voiced concern about the two people who were tried and convicted with her as the same secret trial on 25 August, one of whom was a fixer for the French television production company Galaxie-Presse.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that police took Muradova’s adult children this morning to the Ashgabat morgue where they informed them of her death and showed them the body. There was a head wound and many marks on the rest of the body. Sources had previously reported that Muradova was mistreated following her arrest on 16 June and while she was awaiting trial.

“It is essential that the international community, especially the European countries, the United States and Russia, should demand to know what happened,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Impunity and indifference are the worst form to treatment for journalists who fall victim to the enemies of press freedom and for their relatives.”

The organisation also voiced “great concern” about the fate of Muradova’s co-defendants, fixer Annakurban Amanklychev and human rights activist Sapardurdy Khajiyev, who received sentences of six and seven years respectively at the same trial, that was held secretly without any independent observers and lasted less than two hours.

Reporters Without Borders
September 14, 2006

Posted by admin on 2006/9/14 23:52:00 (1104 reads)

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

Posted by admin on 2006/9/14 23:51:00 (988 reads)

Radio Liberty journalist Ogulsapar Muradova has died in prison in Turkmenistan with reported injuries to her head, the station says.

A relative reported the news after family members were asked by officials to identify her body in a mortuary in the capital, Ashgabat.

Her children are quoted as saying the body has "marks on the neck" and a "large wound" on the head.

Turkmen officials reportedly said she had died of "natural causes".

Liberty's Turkmen Service correspondent was detained in June, along with several human rights activists.

The radio station says no initial reason was given for her detention, but she was convicted on 25 August on charges of illegally possessing ammunition.

Turkmenistan is effectively a one-party state run since Soviet times by Saparmyrat Niyazov, and has no independent media.

Liberty, or Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as it is officially known, is a US-funded broadcaster with a stated mission to promote democracy in the former USSR and other regions.

'Natural causes'

Liberty says it was alerted to Ms Muradova's death by a member of her family who did not wish to be named.

Security officials at the mortuary assured the family that she had died of "natural causes" and they denied any wrongdoing.

After viewing the body, her relatives refused to sign a discharge form and left.

However, relatives later went back to the mortuary and demanded an independent medical examination, according to the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation (THF) human rights group.

"Morgue employees started threatening them," a THF activist said.

The time and circumstances of the journalist's death are unclear and it is also not known in which prison she was held, Radio Liberty says.

Tajigul Begmedova, head of THF, said Ms Muradova had been in excellent health before her arrest.

"Only after she was arrested she started asking for medicine," she was quoted by Liberty as saying.

"We then said it was strange that a healthy person should have health problems all of a sudden."

Ms Muradova was jailed in June.

September 14, 2006

Posted by admin on 2006/9/14 23:51:00 (1057 reads)

MOSCOW (AP)--A human rights activist and journalist has died in prison in Turkmenistan, according to a rights group whose director blamed the government Thursday for what he said appeared to have been her violent death.

The body of Ogulsapar Muradova was displayed in prison Thursday and was seen by her relatives, said Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, citing contacts in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation. Her body had a major head wound and there was evidence of strangulation, he said.

"It's an extremely serious crime that has taken place," Rhodes said. "First of all because she was unfairly tried and imprisoned, and now she appears to have been the victim of an extrajudicial killing."

Muradova was associated with the Bulgaria-based Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation rights group, and was also a reporter with U.S.-funded Radio Liberty. She and two other rights defenders were arrested in June and later handed down sentences ranging from six to seven years, according to the International Helsinki Foundation. The charges were unclear.

Autocratic President Saparmurat Niyazov, in power since before the 1991 Soviet collapse, tolerates no dissent.

Rhodes said the International Helsinki Foundation would appeal to the government to conduct a thorough investigation and to Western governments to "put this issue on the table" in dealings with Turkmenistan.

"It is completely intolerable that this kind of abuse can occur," Rhodes said.

Despite its human rights record, Turkmenistan attracts foreign because of its massive natural gas deposits.

In July, several major rights organizations wrote a letter assailing Turkmenistan's leadership over the detention of Muradova and the two other activists, Amankurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khajiyev, who are also associated with the Bulgaria-based group.

The organizations expressing grave concerns about their treatment and called for their immediate release, saying they were imprisoned for their human rights work, calling them prisoners of conscience. They said Turkmen authorities hadn't granted the three access to an attorney and they were "at risk of torture" and other mistreatment.

Authorities in Turkmenistan couldn't be reached for comment.

Dow Jones International News
September 14, 2006

Posted by admin on 2006/9/14 23:50:00 (1117 reads)

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.

September 14, 2006

Posted by admin on 2006/9/14 23:49:00 (985 reads)

ANKARA, 14 Sep 2006 (IRIN) - An imprisoned Turkmen journalist, Ogulsapar Muradova, who had been working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was reported dead in custody on Thursday, according to the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation (THF).

"Muradova's children were asked to come to a morgue [in the capital, Ashgabat] today. They were not shown her body, but were told to sign a document stating they had been informed [of her death],■ Tajigul Begmedova, head of THF, said from the Bulgarian town of Varna where the organisation is based.

"Later the body was released to the family and it showed clear signs of violence and torture - severe bruising and large wounds to the head," Begmedova added.

Muradova, along with Annakurban Amanklychev, who worked for the French media company, Galaxie-Presse, were sentenced by a Turkmen court to six- and seven-year jail terms respectively on 25 August for illegally possessing ammunition.

Sapardurdy Khajiev, a human rights activist with THF based in Turkmenistan, was jailed for seven years in a high security prison for the same offence.

The RFE/RL journalist was taken from her home in Ashgabat by police on 18 June. Family members had not been allowed to visit Muradova and had only twice been allowed to send her a package of food and medication, RFE/RL said in a statement earlier.

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov▓s regime is among the worst human rights offenders in the world, according to a recent report released by Freedom House on 6 September. 'The Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2006', is an annual compilation of the most dictatorial regimes in the world.

The Turkmen government has neither confirmed nor denied the reported death of the journalist, while THF called for an international action.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB), an international media freedom watchdog, has reported that Niyazov is on their international list of 35 predators of press freedom. Turkmenistan ranked 165 (third from the bottom) on RWB's 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index. Only Eritrea and North Korea have a worse record.

September 14, 2006

Posted by admin on 2006/9/14 23:45:00 (1006 reads)

OSCE media freedom representative calls for transparency in handling of imprisoned Turkmenistan journalist's death

VIENNA, 14 September 2006 - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, today urged the Turkmenistan authorities to handle the death of Radio Free Europe reporter Ogulsapar Muradova in a transparent way.

Ms. Muradova, 58, died today in custody in Turkmenistan.

"I am saddened to hear of the death of Ms. Muradova. I also regret that she will not be able to appeal the court decision of 28 August, which sentenced her to six years in prison," Mr. Haraszti said.

Ms. Muradova and two Turkmen human rights activists, Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadzhiev, were convicted in August on charges of illegal possession of ammunition. Amanklychev and Khadzhiev were handed seven-year sentences.

A report from the Turkmenistan authorities received earlier by Mr. Haraszti stated that Amanklychev and Muradova were "involved in criminal activities related to the collection of defamatory information in Turkmenistan in order to create public dissatisfaction."

September 14, 2006

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