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Turkmenistan4 July 2006

Human rights activist and journalist’s three children released

The three adult children of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty journalist Ogulsapar Muradova who were arrested on 19 June, a day after their mother, were freed on the evening of 1st July. An activist with the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Elena Ovezova, was also released the same day.

According to various sources consulted by Reporters Without Borders, Muradova’s children - Sona and Maral Muradova and Berdy Muradov - have not been charged and no explanation has been given for their arrest. Someone calling themselves a prosecutor reportedly forced them and Ovezova to sign a statement undertaking not to file a complaint against the authorities for illegal arrest.

22 june 2006

Call for immediate release of Radio Free Europe correspondent, her three children and three human rights activists

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Reporters Without Borders today called on foreign ambassadors in Ashgabat to press for the immediate release of Ogulsapar Muradova, a human rights activist and Turkmenistan correspondent of the US radio station Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, who was arrested at her Ashgabat home without any warrant or summons on 18 June and taken to interior ministry headquarters.

The intelligence services have also been holding her three adult children - Sona and Maral Muradova and Berdy Muradov - since 19 June. Three other members of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights - Annakurban Amanklychev, Elena Ovezova and Sapardurdy Khajiyev - were also arrested between 16 and 18 June. All of them are being held in a provisional detention centre in Ashgabat.

“These arrests are totally illegal,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are horrified by the lack of respect for the rule of law in Turkmenistan, where the police arrest whomever they fancy. It has proved impossible to get more information about the conditions in which Ogulsapar Moradova, her three children and the three human rights activists are being held or about their state of health.”

The press freedom organisation said that it would hold the Turkmen authorities responsible if anything happened to them, and that it feared they could be sentenced to long prison terms on trumped-up charges as other dissidents have in the past.

“We call on foreign ambassadors stationed in Turkmenistan to put pressure on the authorities to release them at once,” Reporters Without Borders added. “And we support the statements by Amnesty International, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights condemning the arrests of their members.”

Reporters Without Borders has been told that Muradova was transferred to the headquarters of the national security ministry (the former KGB office), where she was interrogated about her activities until 2 a.m. on 19 June. Intelligence officers then made her ask her children to bring her mobile phone, computer and fax machine. The three children were arrested on the morning of 19 June by national security agents and were questioned at the interior ministry for several hours.

Tajigul Begmedova, the Bulgaria-based chairperson of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation, told Reporters Without Borders she was very worried about Muradova’s state of health, as she suffers from high blood pressure. “It is more than 50 degrees centigrade in Ashgabat at the moment and they often put 50 or 60 detainees in a single cell,” she said.

She said that according to the information she had obtained, Muradova had been drugged during the interrogation sessions conducted by intelligence agents. “All of the various authorities pass they buck and no one is taking responsibility for these arrests,” she protested, adding that neither the police, the intelligence servic es, the prosecutor’s office or the interior ministry were giving any more information.

According to the President Separmurad Nyazov’s television station, Ashgabat TV, Muradova and the other human rights activists are suspected of hatching a plot against the president.

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