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Turkmenistan20 September 2006

Muradova died under torture in high-security prison at least four days before her family was told

Reporters Without Borders said today new information indicates that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s correspondent in Turkmenistan, Ogulsapar Muradova, died under torture at Ovodan Depe high-security prison at least four days before her death was made known on 14 September. The prison is notorious for its harsh conditions.

According to the results of an investigation by the German public radio station Deutsche Welle, Muradova’s body bore “marks on the neck characteristic of strangling.” Her body was taken to the Ashgabat morgue on the night of 10 September, which means she died at least four days before the Turkmen police notified her family of her death.

Muradova, who also worked for the French television production company Galaxie-Presse, died while serving a six-year prison sentence on a charge of illegally possessing ammunition. Two other people, Galaxie-Presse fixer Annakurban Amanklychev and human rights worker Sapardurdy Khajiyev, were tried and convicted with her at the same secret trial on 25 August.

An autopsy was carried out on 12 September in the presence of the police. Deutsche Welle’s source reported that Muradova’s body had a large head wound and that she had suffered internal bleeding (from the liver and left kidney). Her death was probably caused by blows to the back of the head that were inflicted seven to 10 days before she died. These findings were recorded on an official document, which the police may have altered subsequently, as they kept it.

A member of Muradova’s family who managed to exchange messages with her while she was in prison reported to Deutsche Welle that Muradova had told her she could not the stand the mistreatment.

“This information reinforces our concerns about the condition of Muradova’s co-defendants, Amanklychev and Khajiyev, and we fear that they could be undergoing torture right now,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We demand their immediate release and the opening of an investigation into Muradova’s death,” the organisation added.

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