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ASHGABAT -- Islamic cleric Shiri Geldimuradov has died in a prison in Turkmenistan under unexplained circumstances, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

Geldimuradov, 73, was reportedly arrested on April 15 with his sons Muhammed, Abdullah, and Abdulhay.

His fourth son, Abdulmejid, was allegedly sentenced to three years in prison in February for "misusing urban water resources." No further explanation of Abdulmejid's crime was made public.

On June 20, Shiri Geldimuradov's body was delivered to his family.

Unconfirmed reports say he died in the Tejen prison some 200 kilometers east of the capital, Ashgabat.

It is not clear when Shiri Geldimuradov died.

Some reports have suggested that a day after his arrest in April, police found drugs and weapons at Geldimuradov's home in the Azatlyk district of Ashgabat. His close friends dismiss the discovery and say the operation against him was politically motivated.

The actions against the Geldimuradov family began after a deadly shoot-out in Ashgabat between members of an unidentified group and security forces in September 2007. His son, Atageldi, was reportedly arrested after the clashes and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Turkmen authorities said at the time that the incident was a major operation by the government against drug traffickers.

Rights groups say Turkmenistan's undisclosed prison population includes scores of political prisoners despite President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's efforts to paint himself as a liberal successor since he came to power after Saparmurat Niyazov's death in 2006.
Said Torabian (file photo)
A spokesman for Tehran's municipal bus-service union has been released from prison on bail, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Said Torabian, who had been held at Rajaee Shahr prison in Karaj, west of Tehran, was released on July 20. He was detained by authorities on June 9.

His release comes days after the Tehran bus drivers' union issued a statement calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Torabian and three other bus drivers' union leaders: Reza Shahabi, Ebrahim Madadi, and Mansur Osanlu.

A statement issued by the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company on July 17 expressed particular concern about the health of Torabian. It said the union spokesman, who suffers from a heart condition, had not been able to contact his family since his arrest.

The statement states that labor activists have come under increasing pressure in recent months.

"Since the opening of the union five years ago, its members and their families have faced severe pressure, including arrests, threats, dismissal from work, and deprivation of their social and medical rights," it reads.

Bus drivers' union leader Mansur Osanlu is serving a five-year prison term after being arrested in July 2007.

According to the union, the Iranian government had pledged at a recent International Labor Organization conference to release Osanlu. But he is now being charged with more crimes.

On July 18, an Iranian revolutionary court in Karaj charged Osanlu with "spreading propaganda against the regime." It is the same charge brought against him in 2007.

The statement said that the municipal bus drivers' union will continue to fight for workers' rights despite ongoing government pressure. The union appealed for further support from human rights groups and labor unions, especially the International Transport Workers' Federation.

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