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RFE/RL Correspondent Dies In Turkmen Custody

Turkmenistan -- Ogulsapar Muradova, former RFE/RL Turkmen service correspondent died in 2006 in result of torture in prison, undated

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 family members left after refusing to sign a discharge form.

Wounds Reported On The Body

In a statement obtained by RFE/RL, an exiled Turkmen rights group says relatives returned to the morgue later and were permitted to see the body.

The Turkmen Helsinki Foundation (THF) quotes Muradova's children as saying their mother's body 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 being 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.

Human Rights In Turkmenistan

Human Rights In Turkmenistan
Tajigul Begmedova speaking at RFE/RL in Prague on July 21 (RFE/RL)

LIFE UNDER NIYAZOV: On July 21, RFE/RL's Prague broadcasting center hosted a presentation by TAJIGUL BEGMEDOVA, chairwoman of the Bulgaria-based Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (THF). Begmedova discussed the human rights situation in Turkmenistan under President Saparmural Niyazov, focusing on the arrests in June of THF activists and RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondent Ogulsapar Muradova. Begmedova, who graduated from the Institute of Economy in Moscow in 1987, fled Turkmenistan in 2002 and lives in exile in Sofia.


Listen to the complete presentation (36 minutes; presentation in Russian with consecutive translation into English):
Real Audio Windows Media

Some RFE/RL Coverage Of Human Rights In Turkmenistan:

Media Coverage Of Leader Distracts From Real Problems

Authorities Cast Wide Net In Conspiracy Allegations

Embattled Turkmen Writer Honored Abroad

RFE/RL Correspondent Recounts Arrest


RFE/RL coverage of Turkmenistan.

THE COMPLETE STORY: Click on the icon to view a dedicated webpage bringing together all of RFE/RL's coverage of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.