Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, has called for a thorough independent inquiry into the death of investigative reporter Mohammed al-Absi in Yemen.

"I call on the authorities to launch an independent investigation into the death of Mohammed al-Absi, in order to clarify allegations of foul play and hold those responsible to account."

Al-Absi led investigative reports in Yemen for several news outlets. After his sudden death of heart failure at the age of 35 on Dec 20 last year, an autopsy revealed his blood contained a high concentration of toxic gas.

The Director-General of UNESCO issues statements on the killing of media workers in line with Resolution 29 adopted by UNESCO Member States at the Organization's General Conference of 1997, entitled "Condemnation of Violence against Journalists." These statements are posted on a dedicated webpage, UNESCO condemns the killing of journalists.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has welcomed calls by Irina Bokova for a thorough independent inquiry into the death of investigative reporter Mohammed al-Absi in Yemen.

The IFJ had provided support to its affiliate the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate and Mohammed's family in their request for an independent analysis to establish the cause of his death.

The IFJ welcomed Unesco's call for "the Attorney general to open a transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death."

Reports said the journalist was having dinner with a friend in a restaurant on Dec 20 in the capital Sana. A few hours later they both felt unwell and were driven to the hospital, where the reporter died, while his friend survived.

The IFJ said: "At the time of his death we demanded an independent investigation. We have consistently supported his family and his union in their demands for a fair investigation. We welcome call by Irina Bokova. Now the Yemeni authorities must act and the real cause of his death be established and in the event of foul play must act against the killers".

The Yemeni journalists' union, rights groups, and family members were also demanding an inquiry into al-Absi's death .

His sudden death on Dec 20 prompted his family and friends to demand an autopsy, delaying his funeral for nearly three weeks. Samples were flown to Jordan for tests, which finally revealed that al-Absi died of poisoning.

In a joint statement, advocates called upon the state prosecution to start a "transparent investigation" saying that al-Absi played an "exceptional role against corruption."