TURKMENISTAN: Reprisals Restart Against Protestants.

Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 5 December 2001

After a week when the authorities were easing their punitive measures against those who took part in a service of the Protestant Word of Life church raided by police and the security police in the Turkmen capital Ashgabad on 15 November (see KNS 29 November2001), Keston News Service has learnt that the authorities in a small village have taken revenge onthree villagers who had travelled to Ashgabad for the service. Sources in Turkmenistan told Keston on 5December that one of those summoned by the local police was sentenced to 15 days in prison, while the other two were threatened and then released. They added that the Ashgabad authorities probably telephoned the authorities in the village of Deinau35 kilometres (20 miles) north west of the town of Turkmenabad (formerly Charjou) to inform them that the three had participated in an "illegal" religious meeting.

Sources, who identified the imprisoned man as Murad (last name unknown), say he was beaten at the police station after being summoned on about 2 December. It is not known which article of the administrative codehe was sentenced under, if any. Summoned and threatened at the same time were Nurmurad (last name unknown) and Jamilya (her last name is also unknown).

Murad has reportedly been harassed in the past by the village elders for his membership of the Word of Life church. Two years ago he was beaten, and earlier this year village elders threatened to have the gas supply to his home cut off and even to expel him from the village.

Keston has so far been unable to verify the reports of the harassment of the three individually or to seek the response of the local police as to why they appear to be taking revenge against believers who attended a religious meeting in a private home.

Meanwhile, reports from Ashgabad say three local women who had been present at the raided meeting have been summoned to the religion department of the hyakimat (local administration). Svetlana Annamukhamedova, Natalya Kiselyova and Oksana Bachegova have been summoned in the past few days and interrogated. This is the third reported interrogation of Annamukhamedova since 21 November.

"The authorities have started harassments again, but they have changed the motivation for doing so," one source told Keston from Ashgabad. "Now they tell everyone they call for meetings that they regard sects as possible chains of organisations like al-Qaeda [the terror group led by Osama bin Laden] and chase after them as those sects are potential troublemakers. Among sects they count the Living Word church." Another Protestant source dismissed the authorities' allegations against the church as"ridiculous". (END)