July 8, 2008 / 12:30 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Turkmenistan frees RFE/RL radio reporter

(Changes source to U.S. Embassy, adds comment)

ALMATY, July 8 (Reuters) - Turkmenistan’s authorities have released a reporter working for U.S.-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) after two weeks of detention, the U.S. embassy in Turkmenistan said on Tuesday.

Global human rights groups have accused Turkmenistan, a desert nation bordering Iran and Afghanistan, of tolerating no dissent and no media freedom, and allowing torture in jails.

RFE/RL said last month Sazak Durdymuradov, a contributing reporter on its Turkmen service, was detained and tortured after he refused to stop working for the Prague-based broadcaster.

“We welcome the release and return to his family of Sazak Durdymuradov,” the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

“We encourage the Government of Turkmenistan to adhere to its international human rights obligations as enshrined in the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

In an earlier statement, RFE/RL said Durdymuradov, a history teacher who contributed commentary on educational and constitutional reform, returned home to Bakharden, 200 km (125 miles) west of the capital Ashgabat, on July 4.

Turkmen officials have not been available for comment.

Turkmenistan is classified, along with North Korea, as the world’s worst violator of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders. It is still off limits to most Western reporters, and domestic media never criticise state policies.

Ogulsapar Muradova, another reporter with RFE/RL, died in a Turkmen prison in 2006 after she was sentenced for illegal possession of weapons, according to RFE/RL. (Writing by Olzhas Auyezov)

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