TURKMENISTAN: Forty Detained At Protestant Meeting.

Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 15 November 2001

All the more than forty people attending a service of the Word of Life Church in the Turkmen capital Ashgabad today (15 November) were detained when the private flat where the church was meeting was raided, several sources in Ashgabad have told Keston News Service. Officers of the police and of the KNB security police (the former KGB), as well asofficials of the local hakimlik (administration),were involved in the raid on the evening meeting. Among those detained for interrogation were the church's pastor, Vladimir Shamrai, and his wife Olga.

"All the forty or fifty people present, both church members and guests, were detained when the service was raided," a church member told Keston. "They were taken outside, put in a large bus and transported tothe police station. There they are being interrogated as we speak. We don't yet know how it will end up."

No Protestant churches in Turkmenistan have been allowed to register under the country's restrictive religion law and registration regulations. The Word of Life church is one of a number of Protestant congregations functioning in Ashgabad without registration, despite the fact that the government considers unregistered religious activity to be illegal.

Local Protestants fear that the church member who hosted the gathering, a woman called Ryzhkova, risks the confiscation of her property, as has happened to a number of other Protestants who hosted religious meetings in their homes. (END)