KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 5 January 2001

I. KOSOVO: GRENADE ATTACK ON PRISTINA'S LAST ACTIVE
ORTHODOX CHURCH. The only functioning Serbian Orthodox church in the
Kosovan capital Pristina was damaged on 22 December by a hand grenade thrown
from a passing vehicle. No-one was injured. This is the first reported attack on an
Orthodox church in Kosovo since September of last year.

II. TURKMENISTAN: AMNESTY FAILS TO FREE RELIGIOUS PRISONERS.
The amnesty which last month freed nearly two-thirds of Turkmenistan's prison
population has not benefited any of the five religious prisoners known to Keston
News Service. Their names are not included in the list of those freed, and Baptist
and Jehovah's Witness sources are not aware of any release of their prisoners.

I. KOSOVO: GRENADE ATTACK ON PRISTINA'S LAST ACTIVE
ORTHODOX CHURCH

by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

The only functioning Serbian Orthodox church in the Kosovan capital Pristina was
attacked with a hand grenade in the evening of 22 December. Unknown attackers
threw the grenade at the Church of St Nicholas from a passing vehicle. No-one
was injured, but windows were broken, a dividing wall between the church and the
old graveyard was damaged and the outside wall of the church suffered minor
damage. The 170-year-old icon screen, one of the most valuable in the whole
Serbian Church, was not damaged. This is the first reported attack on an Orthodox
church in Kosovo since September of last year.

St Nicholas' Church, built in 1830, serves the several hundred remaining Serbs in
Pristina. It is the only active church, besides one under construction. It is guarded
by British troops serving with the NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR. Police
from the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) have investigated the
incident, interviewing people in the neighbourhood, but no-one has been arrested
or charged so far. Keston News Service has been unable to get through to UNMIK
to find out the results of the investigation. KFOR spokesman Captain Richard
Kusak promised to respond to Keston's enquiry about what measures have been
taken to prevent such attacks recurring.

`Father Miroslav, the only remaining local parish priest, reported that a vehicle
came from a small side alley that runs up the hill. After it passed the KFOR tank
unit at the entrance to the churchyard and reached the old graveyard, the attackers
threw the grenade, which landed in front of the church,' Srdjan Jakovljevic, head
of the diocesan office in Belgrade, told Keston on 3 January.

Jakovljevic believes the incident follows the pattern of earlier attacks on Orthodox
churches in Kosovo. `First they intimidate, then they come to loot and steal, then
comes desecration of the holy sites and finally destruction, usually by dynamite.'
He regards the attack as `a clear sign' to the remaining Serbs in Pristina, who have
to travel to services in the church on Sundays and religious holidays in buses
guarded by KFOR soldiers. `We condemn this attack and the attackers, and again
ask KFOR and UNMIK to find those responsible.'

Serbian Orthodox churches and graveyards in Kosovo have suffered waves of
attacks since international peacekeeping forces entered the province in 1999 and
about ninety have been damaged or completely destroyed. However, the number
of serious attacks has fallen sharply in recent months. In the last reported attack,
on 1 September, the Church of St Nicholas at the Orthodox cemetery in the village
of Musnikovo, Sredacka Zupa, 10 miles south of Prizren, was damaged and
desecrated (see KNS 11 September 2000). As far as Keston is aware, no-one has
ever been tried and convicted for any of these attacks. (END)


II. TURKMENISTAN: AMNESTY FAILS TO FREE RELIGIOUS PRISONERS

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

The amnesty which last month freed nearly two-thirds of Turkmenistan's prison
population has not benefited any of the five religious prisoners known to Keston
News Service.
Their names are not included in the long list of those
freed, copies of which have been handed to diplomats based in
Ashgabad, and Baptist and Jehovah's Witness sources have told Keston that they
do not know of any release of their prisoners.

The long-mooted amnesty was decreed by President Saparmurat Niyazov on
22 December to mark the Islamic holy night of Kadir, which marks the
end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. `The president has ordered
that 12,000 out of 19,000 prisoners be set free,' a government
official in Ashgabad told Reuters on 23 December.

A law passed in 1999 provides for a presidential amnesty for prisoners on the
occasion of the Islamic festival. About 30,000 prisoners were released in 1999 and
the beginning of 2000. The amnesty does not extend to those convicted of murder,
rape, prostitution, spying, treason and plotting against the president. Those freed
must swear on the Koran that they will not repeat their offences.

Several political prisoners were freed after publicly recanting and taking the oath
of loyalty to the president. Two prominent political detainees, Nurberdi
Nurmamedov and Pirimguly Tangryguliyev, were among a group of prisoners
shown on television acknowledging their errors and promising not to err again,
touching both the Koran and a dish of salt.

The five known religious prisoners are:

Shagildy Atakov, a Baptist, serving a 4 year sentence in labour camp at Seydy on
charges of swindling which church members insist were instigated to obstruct his
activity with the church. He was arrested on 18 December 1998 in the Caspian
port city of Turkmenbashi, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and fined on
19 March 1999, but was retried on 4 and 5 August 1999 in Ashgabad and given
the increased sentence. He is married with five children.

Yazmammed Annamammedov, a Jehovah's Witness, serving a 4 year sentence for
alleged possession of weapons, a charge the Jehovah's Witnesses maintain is false.
He was sentenced in Serdar (Kyzyl-arbat) on 13 December 1999. He has been held
in labour camp at Bezmein, although reports say this camp is now being closed. It
is not clear where he is now being held. He is married with three children.

Guvanch Ashirov, a Jehovah's Witness, serving an 18 month sentence. He was
arrested in August 1999 and sentenced in the town of Kazandjik on 6 September
1999. He has been held in the Bezmein camp, but his current whereabouts are also
unknown. He was among a group of Jehovah's Witness prisoners who were
granted amnesty in late 1999, but who was not freed after refusing to swear the
oath of loyalty on a copy of the Koran.

Igor Nazarov, a Jehovah's Witness, serving an unknown sentence in a labour camp
in Tedjen for refusing military service, his second prison term on the same charge.
He was sentenced on 14 March 2000.

Nuryagdy Gaiyrov, a Jehovah's Witness, serving a one year sentence in a labour
camp in Tedjen for refusing military service. He was sentenced on 19 January
2000, so his sentence is due to end soon. Gaiyrov was among a group of Jehovah's
Witness prisoners who were granted amnesty in late 1999, but who was not freed
after refusing to swear the oath of loyalty on a copy of the Koran.

In addition to these five known prisoners, there are a number of believers who
have been subjected to internal deportation. (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.