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RFE/RL Turkmen Correspondent Gravely Ill After Imprisonment

(Prague, Czech Republic — March 23, 2006) A correspondent working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Turkmenistan is seriously ill, following imprisonment by Turkmen authorities earlier this month.

Jumadurdy Ovezov, a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, was arrested with a colleague Meret Khommadov on trumped up charges March 7. They were released March 17, after pledging they would no longer work for RFE/RL.

RFE/RL has learned that Ovezov, who lives in a small village in the Mary region in southeastern Turkmenistan without a telephone, had kidney surgery shortly before he was imprisoned and is bed-ridden at home since his release. His health is deteriorating, according to his colleague, Khommadov: “Juma complains about pain in his kidneys… At night his son came to me and said his father was ill and asked me to come. Then Juma told me he was sick and he didn’t know what to do. He said, ‘If I go to the doctor [I’m afraid] he might give me the wrong injection and kill me.'”

RFE/RL Acting President Jeff Trimble said today, “We are very worried about his condition and are doing all we can to get treatment for this brave man,” adding that RFE/RL is contacting the International Red Cross for help.

A description of the conditions faced by Ovezov and Khommadov during their ordeal, provided by Khommadov, may be read at RFE/RL’s website.

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; English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can also be found on the RFE/RL website.