TURKMENISTAN: Protestants Threatened with Property Confiscation.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 14 June 2001

A group of seven or eight Protestants in the north eastern town of Turkmenabad (formerly Chardjou) have been threatened with the confiscation of all their property - including their homes - if they continue to attend services of their unregistered church, Protestant sources have told Keston News Service. Confiscation of private property used for religious activity the government regards as illegal appears to be the latest weapon in the Turkmen government's campaign to suppress all unregistered religious activity (which includes the activity of all religious groups except the state-sanctioned Sunni Muslim Board and the Russian Orthodox Church).

  Sources told Keston that the Protestants - who had each been fined 250,000 manats (one month's minimum wages) in April for involvement in their church - were summoned by the political police, the KNB (former KGB), at the end of May. There they were threatened that if they did not halt their involvement with the church, all their property would be confiscated. The sources declined to allow the denominational affiliation of those summoned to be published for fear of making their position worse. Local Protestants allege that the Russian Orthodox leadership had a role in the moves against the Protestants, but Keston has been unable to confirm these claims.

Property confiscation as a means of suppressing religious activity appears to have begun at the end of last year, with the confiscation of the homes of four young Protestants and their families, who have since fled the country. Since then the Pentecostal and Baptist churches in the capital Ashgabad have been confiscated, while the home of a family of Jehovah's Witnesses in Ashgabad is currently in the process of confiscation. In each of these cases the authorities have alleged that the properties were being used 'not for their true purpose', despite that fact that Turkmen law does not specifically ban unregistered religious activity and specifically allows religious activity in private homes. (END)