TURKMENISTAN: Shageldy Atakov 'Under Surveillance'.

Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 27 January 2002

Freed religious prisoner Shageldy Atakov has been warned not to associate with his fellow Baptists and remains under close surveillance by the country's political police, the KNB (former KGB), Keston News Service has learnt. "Surveillance has been set up around the Atakovs' home," a 25 January statement from local Baptists declared. "Each day an officer makes a visit allegedly to 'wish him well', offering that if there are any problems he should ask for help."

Two KNB officers from Ashgabad visited Atakov at home in the village of Kaakhka in southern Turkmenistan on 21 January, declared the statement, passed to Keston by the German-based Friedensstimme Mission. The officers, Iskander Kurbanov and Kurban (last name unknown), stayed for about an hour. "They said that he should not meet with his fellow believers, tried in all possible ways to find out the number of Baptist believers in Turkmenistan, asked him to let them know about visits by foreign citizens and enquired about what he would say and how he would conduct himself with them," local Baptists reported. "Shageldy replied that he knows himself what to say to whom." The KNB officers also tried to find out what Atakov's plans were now he has been freed from prison. He responded that his first priority was his health. "They offered [Atakov] help with medical treatment and other services. Shageldy refused point-blank."

Atakov - the most prominent religious prisoner in Turkmenistan - was freed on 8 January from prison in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi (see KNS 10 January 2002). Although he was given his identity documents soon after his release, he is still awaiting a certificate of release from prison. "When Shageldy asked why he has still not been given the release certificate," local Baptists reported in the statement, "one of the KNB officers responded that the documents are being held up in the prison where Shageldy had been held until recently." (END)