(Prague, Czech Republic -- August 25, 2006) A correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, detained by Turkmen authorities since June, was put on trial today and sentenced to six years in prison.
Ogulsapar Muradova was tried with two other defendants -- Sapardurdy Khajiev and Annakurban Amanklychev -- behind closed doors with no counsel present, in a municipal court in Ashgabat's Azatlyk district. Waiting relatives and lawyers for the defendants were not allowed into the courtroom, but an official showed the lawyers a document recording the charge, verdict and sentence.
In proceedings that lasted just a few minutes, all three were found guilty of being in illegal possession of bullets and ammunition under Article 287 of Turkmenistan's penal code. Muradova was sentenced to six years in prison; one of her co-defendants, Amanklychev was sentenced to seven years in a medium-security prison, while the other, Khadjiev, is to serve a seven year sentence in a high-security prison.
Muradova's lawyer, Kakadzhan Kadyrov said armed soldiers surrounded the defendants as they were led into the courtroom. Soldiers stopped Kadyrov when he tried to approach Muradova and would not allow him to accompany his client into the courtroom. According to Kadyrov, Muradova "categorically denied the charges against her" and will appeal her conviction.
RFE/RL Acting President Jeff Trimble condemned the trial as "a mockery of justice." Trimble said "RFE/RL protests Ogulsapar Muradova's sentence in the strongest terms, as we have protested her unjust imprisonment for more than two months. " He said "RFE/RL will continue to do all it can for her freedom."
Ogulsapar Muradova was taken away from her home in Ashgabat by police on June 18. Family members have not been allowed to visit Muradova since, and have only twice been allowed to send her a package of food and medication.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent federal agency that oversees U.S. international broadcasting, including RFE/RL, issued a statement July 13, demanding that Ogulsapar Muradova be released. Major U.S. and international human rights groups have also condemned the Turkmen government for continuing to keep Muradova in prison.They include Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, the International Helsinki Federation and Reporters Without Borders.
RFE/RL's Turkmen Service broadcasts six hours of programming a day to Turkmenistan, produced in Prague and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, medium wave and satellite broadcasts. Turkmen Service programming is also available via the Internet, at http://www.rferl.org; English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can be found on the RFE/RL website, at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/turkmenistan.html