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An international media freedom watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders (RWB), reported on Wednesday that the journalist with the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) who had been reported dead in custody in Turkmenistan died of torture.

RWB said that Ogulsapar Muradova died under torture at the Ovodan Depe high-security prison at least four days before her death was made known to her relatives on 14 September. The prison is notorious for its harsh conditions.

Muradova’s body bore “marks on the neck characteristic of strangling” and signs of internal and external injuries, RWB said, citing the German radio station Deutsche Welle. Muradova died while serving a six-year prison sentence on charges of illegally possessing ammunition. She was tried and convicted on 25 August.

On Monday, an international rights watchdog urged the new UN Human Rights Council to take urgent action in addressing the world's major crises and expand its focus beyond the Middle East.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the council to call on all UN member states to allow visits by the council's independent experts, and specifically identify those states which continue to block such visits, including Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the worst human rights offenders in Central Asia.

In Uzbekistan, an independent journalist and rights activist has been arrested on bribery charges amid a continuing government crackdown on dissidents in the country, according to an AP report on Monday.

Ulugbek Khaidarov was detained by police in the central Uzbek city of Jizzak on Thursday, when US $400 was allegedly found in his pocket after he met with a local businesswoman, his sister Nortoji Khaidarova said. During a search of Khaidarov's home, a senior police officer told Khaidarova that her brother would be punished for his Internet publications and human rights activities, she said.

Also in Uzbekistan, a popular dissident imam was sentenced to 17 years in prison for allegedly leading an al-Qaida linked Islamic group, AP reported on Monday. The court in the town of Chirchik near the capital Tashkent on 15 September found Rukhitdin Fakhrutdinov guilty of organising terrorist attacks, plotting to overthrow the government and preaching Islamic fundamentalism, said local rights defender Surat Ikramov.

Fakhrutdinov's lawyer, Irina Mikulina, said the charges were "completely trumped up" and that his guilt wasn't proven, according to Ikramov. Fakhrutdinov fled to neighbouring Kazakhstan in 1998 fearing persecution. He was secretly arrested and transferred to Uzbekistan last November.

In Kyrgyzstan, opposition groups demanded constitutional reforms and the dismissal of two of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's brothers from government jobs, AP reported on Monday, citing an opposition lawmaker. Political tension has been high in the Central Asian republic since the opposition protests of March 2005 that ousted its longtime president Askar Akayev.

In a resolution adopted at a meeting on Sunday, opposition groups said that if Bakiyev fails to meet their demands within a month, they would push for his resignation, said Melis Eshimkanov. The move follows a scandal that led to the dismissal of Bakiyev's brother Janybek as deputy security chief after allegations of his involvement in planting heroin on key opposition leader Omurbek Tekebayev.

In Tajikistan, the United Nations on Tuesday appealed for $1 million over the next six months to help victims of the July earthquakes in the country, which destroyed or damaged nearly 2,600 houses and affected some 21,000 people.

There is a fear that half of the fully destroyed houses - around 500 homes - might not be rebuilt before the onset of the winter, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. If this were to occur, it would have serious humanitarian consequences, which is the reason for this appeal, OCHA added.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan's health ministry Yerbolat Dosayev was sacked on Wednesday after 55 small children had been infected with HIV in the south of the country, the Russian Interfax news agency reported. Nurlan Abdirov, deputy secretary of Kazakhstan's Security Council, confirmed that Dosayev had been relieved of his position due to serious negligence in the infection case.

Altogether 55 children and two adults contracted HIV in a hospital in the southern Kazakh city of Shymkent over the past few months, apparently after receiving blood contaminated with the virus. At least four children have since died.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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