TURKMENISTAN: Atakov Transferred to Enclosed Prison.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 27 March 2001

Ailing Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov has again been transferred to a new prison. The German-based Friedensstimme mission told Keston News Service that on 23 March Atakov was transferred from the labour camp in Seydy in north eastern Turkmenistan right across the country to the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk), where he is being held in an enclosed prison (known in Russian as a `krytaya tyurma').

The Friedensstimme mission is interpreting this as a bad sign. `The prisoners are kept under one roof and therefore have no contact with the outside world at all,' mission director Klaus Karsten told Keston on 27 March. `They are trying to isolate Shageldy totally.' There is no news on Atakov's current state of health.

Atakov - a member of a congregation of the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists - is serving a four year sentence on charges fellow Baptists believe were fabricated to punish him for his activity in the Baptist church in Turkmenbashi, where he was arrested in December 1998.

In early February he was transferred to prison hospital in the town of Mary after widespread concern about his rapidly-deteriorating health, then on 1 March he was transferred back to the camp in Seydy. It is not known why he has now been transferred again.

From early March Atakov's wife Artygyul and their five children have been put under intense pressure in the town of Kaakhka. Artygyul has been pressured by the local mullah, administration officials and officers of the political police the KNB (former KGB) to convert to Islam (see KNS 26 March 2001). (END)