Tuesday 8 February 2000

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Baptists in Turkmenistan are warning that a `fabricated' case on an unspecified
motoring charge is now being prepared against one of their members, who was
detained with a colleague in the capital Ashgabad on 2 February (see KNS 3
and 4 February 2000). This appears to be the latest move in the authorities'
long-running campaign to crush minority religious communities, which - for
the Baptists' congregation in Ashgabad - has entailed the deportation of the
pastor VLADIMIR CHERNOV last December, fines on community members,
raids on the church and threats to individual members.

According to the two most recent statements from Ashgabad, one dated 3
February, the other dated 7 February - passed to Keston News Service by US-
based Russian Evangelistic Ministries - ANATOLI BELYAYEV and
MIKHAIL KOZLOV were arrested by officers of the National Security
Committee (KNB, former KGB) in the evening of 2 February. According to
Kozlov's 3 February statement, he had just returned to his home in Ashgabad
when he discovered five KNB officers, led by AKMURAD AMNANIYAZOV.
`He had no permission from the procuracy, but refused to leave the house,'
Kozlov recounted. `Our house was practically occupied.' They refused Kozlov's
father and brother permission even to leave the room. As soon as Belyayev
arrived the two were taken to the second police station of Kopetdag district.
There police confiscated Kozlov's car, a white Volkswagen, documents related
to his car, as well as Belyayev's driving licence. Kozlov spent the night at the
police station and was freed in the morning of 3 February.

However, Belyayev was transferred to the special holding centre. His wife
ORAZOV, but declined to answer his question. However, he reportedly offered
to allow her to see her husband in detention. At the last minute, though, she and
another member of the Baptist community accompanying her were denied
access as she did not have her passport with her. Meanwhile officials of the
special holding centre are refusing to say whether they are holding Belyayev or
not, as they say that he did not have his passport with him when they received
him. Kozlov maintained in his statement that Belyayev must have had it with
him when they were detained.

On 3 February KNB officer Amnaniyazov refused to give Kozlov a certificate
detailing the removal of the car and his documents, as he said they would soon
be returned.

Kozlov noted in his statement that KNB officers had already started asking him
about Belyayev's use of his car when he was summoned for questioning on 29
January. Orazov told him that they were investigating an alleged traffic
incident which had taken place in the Seraks region involving a white
Volkswagen. Kozlov noted that Orazov had finished the questioning by
declaring: `Bring a tape recorder and I will record onto the tape that here there
is one law - Muslims and Orthodoxy!' (Such remarks indicating the exclusive
right of these two faiths to exist in Turkmenistan are becoming increasingly
frequent from officials at all levels.)

The statement of 7 February from the Baptists in Ashgabad sounded even more
alarmed about the case they claim is being prepared against Belyayev, who is
now being held in the special holding centre in Sevastopol street in the Azatlyk
district. `They are trying to fabricate a criminal case against him for having
committed a traffic offence in the car belonging to Brother Mikhail Kozlov,'
they write. They ask for appeals for these `false charges' to be dropped to be
sent to President SAPARMURAT NIYAZOV and the Procurator General K S

The Ashgabad congregation belongs to the Council of Churches of Evangelical
Christians/Baptists, which rejected registration during the Soviet period and
which has maintained this stance since the CIS republics gained independence.

Keston has not confirmed the information in the Baptists' reports
independently, but statements issued through the Council of Churches have a
long track record of reliability. (END)

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(c) Keston Institute 2000