(NEW YORK) — Jennifer Lopez performed in Avaza, Turkmenistan, on Saturday at a birthday event for Turkmenistan leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. The former American Idol judge sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to the dictator, who controls the country’s regime.
Turkmenistan, which is a former Soviet Bloc country, has been cited by human rights organizations for numerous abuses and for its authoritarian leadership.
In a statement to ABC News on Sunday, Lopez’s representative said the event in Turkmenistan was a “private corporate event” held by the China National Petroleum Corporation that was “not political in nature” and was not “government sponsored.”
The statement continues, “The event was vetted by her representatives, had there been knowledge of human right issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.”
The rep further explains, “The China National Petroleum Corporation made a last minute ‘birthday greeting’ request prior to Jennifer taking the stage. This was not stipulated in her contract but she graciously obliged the China National Petroleum Corporation request.”
The non-profit Human Rights Foundation criticized Lopez’s appearance at the party.
Human Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen said in a statement on Saturday, “Lopez obviously has the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of her choice and his circle of cronies, but her actions utterly destroy the carefully crafted message she has cultivated with her prior involvement with Amnesty International’s programs in Mexico aimed at curbing violence against women.”
There was no word as to what Lopez was paid for the performance, or if she intends to keep the cash.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Brandon Griggs, CNN
Brett Crandall, BYU-Idaho Communications
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com