NAGORNO-KARABAKH: Officials Refuse to Discuss Baptist Deportation.

Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 7 March 2002

Officials of the Interior Ministry of the unrecognised Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh have refused to discuss with Keston News Service why a local Baptist has been issued with deportation papers. Contacted in the capital Stepanakert by telephone on 6 March, an interior ministry official promised to explain the deportation order in a faxed statement. However, on 7 March an official told Keston: "There will be no statement." Asked why the Karabakh authorities had ordered the deportation of 24-year-old Arsen Teimurov, the official refused all further comment. Subsequent telephone calls went unanswered.

A Karabakh-born Armenian, who recently returned to the region from Ukraine to live with his mother and other relatives, Teimurov was served with deportation documents as a result of talking with relatives and friends about his newly-found faith as a Baptist.

A 27 February statement from local Baptists, passed to Keston by the German-based Friedensstimme mission, reports that Teimurov had been among a group of Baptists - among them visitors from Armenia and Russia - who met in his flat in Stepanakert on 25 February, when several local people "turned to the Lord with prayers of repentance". All the visitors, as well as Teimurov and a local woman, were "forcibly taken" to the local police the following day. All but Teimurov were freed after interrogation, but he was held until late in the evening until deportation documents had been prepared. All religious literature, audio tapes and films found in his flat were confiscated.

The local Baptists reported that Teimurov, who is a Ukrainian citizen, had converted and joined the Baptists while in prison in Ukraine. After release and return to Karabakh, a region dominated by its ethnic Armenian majority which broke away from Azerbaijani control in a bloody war a decade ago, Teimurov registered his legal residency without problem with the Karabakh authorities. It is not clear when the deportation order will be carried out. (END)