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Group Fears Imprisoned Reporter Died Violently

September 15, 2006|From the Associated Press

MOSCOW — A human rights activist and journalist has died in prison in Turkmenistan, a rights group said Thursday.

Ogulsapar Muradova bore a major head injury and there was evidence of strangulation, said Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.

He blamed the government for what he said appeared to be a violent death.

"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 a reporter with U.S.-funded Radio Liberty.

She and two other rights defenders were arrested in June and later handed sentences ranging from six to seven years, according to the International Helsinki Federation. The charges were unclear.

The press freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders also demanded a full investigation of the death and expressed concern for the two other prisoners.

The group said Muradova's adult children had been shown her body at a morgue in the capital, Ashgabat.

Radio Liberty said Turkmen authorities had declined the family's request that a medical examination be done at the morgue, but allowed Muradova's two adult daughters to take their mother's body home after they appealed for help to the U.S. Embassy.

After the family called a medical examiner, Turkmen security agents surrounded the family's building, barring any visitors, the group said.

Authorities in Turkmenistan could not be reached for comment. Autocratic President Saparmurad A. Niyazov, in power since before the 1991 Soviet collapse, tolerates no dissent.

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