TURKMENISTAN: Baptist Protests about KNB Raid.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 26 February 2001

A Baptist in the Caspian port city of Turkmenbashi has written to the city prosecutor to complain about a raid on her home by officers of Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB (former KGB), during which religious books were confiscated without an official record being drawn up or an explanation being given. In her letter - a copy of which was passed to Keston News Service by the US-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries - O. M. Dvornikova calls on the prosecutor to ensure an end to such actions. `I appeal to you to take the necessary measures against the unlawful actions of the KNB agents,' Dvornikova wrote on 22 February, `since their actions violate Turkmenistan's law on freedom of conscience and religious organisations (article 20, part 1) and the law on the prohibition of searches in the houses of Turkmen citizens.'

Keston has been unable to obtain the telephone number of the KNB in Turkmenbashi to find out why Dvornikova's flat was raided or of the city prosecutor to find out what action he will take to investigate the raid and prevent further such raids.

Dvornikova reports that in the afternoon of 21 February she received a visit from two men claiming they were from the fire department, although they presented no identification papers. `Initially they went to the kitchen area, as if to check whether there is any supplementary gas heating equipment. Afterwards they went to the balcony where, upon seeing my personal literature with religious content, they presented their papers, those of KNB agents, and announced the confiscation of this literature.' They loaded the literature into their car. `They did not present any documents permitting the confiscation,' Dvornikova complained to the prosecutor. `No official record was drawn up.' The two men then left, but ten minutes later someone rang the doorbell again. The two men were there with a third, identified by Dvornikova as KNB agent Ischanov, but she declined to open the door.

Dvornikova is a member of the Turkmenbashi Baptist congregation, which belongs to the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists, a group heavily persecuted in Turkmenistan in recent years. Churches have been raided and believers detained, beaten, fined and deported. One member of the Turkmenbashi congregation, Shageldy Atakov, is in poor health in prison hospital in Mary after being subjected to repeated beatings and forcible treatment with psychotropic drugs in labour camp (see KNS 21 February 2001). He is serving a four year sentence on charges the Baptists believe have been fabricated to punish him for his activity with the church. (END)