TURKMENISTAN: New Deadline for Conscripted Baptist.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 7 June 2001

A young Baptist from the Turkmen capital Ashgabad forcibly drafted into the armed forces last month has been transferred out of the military unit where he had been subjected to torture (see KNS 18 May 2001), Keston News Service has learnt. However, his troubles are not over. He has been given a deadline of 10 June to swear the obligatory military oath or face prosecution under the criminal code. Dmitri Melnichenko refuses to serve in the armed forces or swear the military oath on religious grounds. Turkmenistan has no alternative service and imprisons conscientious objectors.

Local Baptists reported in a statement of 3 June - passed to Keston by the German-based Friedensstimme mission - that Melnichenko was transferred on 1 June by order of the Ministry of Defence to another unit in the town of Serdar (formerly Kyzyl-Arvat) in western Turkmenistan. The following day he was summoned to the procuracy, where he was told by the deputy procurator that if he continues to refuse to take the oath a criminal case will be initiated against him and he will be imprisoned.

The Friedensstimme mission reported that a fellow-Baptist was able to visit Melnichenko on 2 June and reported that he felt well, despite still suffering the after-effects of beatings he sustained at the hands of the local KNB, Turkmenistan's political police, on 15 May. Others in the military unit are said to treat him well, except for the leadership, which is reported to be under pressure `from above' to put pressure on Melnichenko.

Although Keston has not been able to verify the latest report on Melnichenko independently, information from sources within the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists has a long track record of reliability. Melnichenko's church in Ashgabad, which belongs to the Council of Churches, has been subjected to repeated government pressure.

The address of Melnichenko's unit is:

Turkmenistan,

745150 Balkan Region,

Serdar,

v/ch 48798,

18-y voenny gorodok, d. 34

Melnichenko Dmitri

(END)