KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 7 December 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

TURKMENISTAN: ADVENTISTS DETAINED AT PRAYER
MEETING. Three weeks after an Adventist meeting in a private flat in
Turkmenabad (formerly Charjou) was raided by the authorities, identity
documents taken from those present have still not been returned, in effect
confining them to the city, Adventist sources told Keston News Service
on 7 December. Following the 16 November raid, six people were
detained for several hours and all their religious books, audio and video
materials were seized. Church members fear the flat�s owner may lose her
home, following confiscation by police of her legal ownership
documents. The raid came one day after a meeting of the Pentecostal
Word of Life Church was raided in the Turkmen capital Ashgabad.

TURKMENISTAN: ADVENTISTS DETAINED AT PRAYER
MEETING

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Three weeks after an Adventist meeting in a private flat in the eastern city
of Turkmenabad (formerly Charjou) was raided by the authorities,
identity documents taken from those present have still not been returned,
Adventist sources told Keston News Service on 7 December. In the wake
of the 16 November raid, six people were held for several hours before
being freed. Although they were warned they would be summoned again,
so far this has not happened. All their religious books as well as audio and
video materials were seized. Police confiscated from the flat's owner legal
documents proving ownership of the home, and these have not been
returned either. Church members fear she may lose her home, as has
happened to believers of other faiths who have used their private homes
for religious meetings the authorities deem illegal.

Adventists in Turkmenabad declined to discuss the raid and its aftermath
with Keston, perhaps for fear of further reprisals from the authorities.

The six who have had their identity documents confiscated are certain to
face difficulties in everyday life. Many transactions in Turkmenistan,
including buying tickets to travel within the country, are impossible
without identity documents, so they are in effect confined to the city.

The raid on the Adventist meeting in Turkmenabad came a day after a
meeting of the Pentecostal Word of Life Church was raided in the
Turkmen capital Ashgabad. Some forty people were given heavy fines,
three foreign nationals were deported and threats were made to confiscate
the flat where the meeting took place, although the threats have not been
carried through.

Two church members who had travelled to Ashgabad for the meeting
from the village of Deinau 35 kilometres (20 miles) from Turkmenabad
are currently serving fifteen-day prison terms imposed in reprisal for their
participation (see KNS 5 December 2001). The two - Murad
Djumanazarov and Jamilya Boltaeva - are now half way through their
prison term. A further two were threatened with being "locked away".

Protestant sources told Keston on 7 December that three women from
Turkmenabad who had been present at the Ashgabad meeting and who
were among those fined (two of them each receiving fines of 500,000
manats [25 US dollars or 18 British pounds at the street exchange rate])
have again been fined. Sources said the three were summoned earlier in
the week to the Turkmenabad hyakimlik (administration), where they
were given fines of 250,000 manats each, apparently under Article 205 of
the administrative code which punishes "violation of the law on religious
associations". When the three women asked officials why they were being
fined again for the same offence, they were reportedly told: "We are the
law here. Just pay up." After the fines were levied, the police visited one
of the women in her home, put her in a police vehicle and took her to the
local police station for further interrogation, before returning her home.

Turkmenistan has the harshest religious policy of all the former Soviet
republics. For the past four years the only religious groups which have
state registration are communities belonging to the state-approved
Muslim Board and several parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church. The
authorities treat all other religious communities as illegal and seek to
crush their activity.

One Russian pastor expelled in the wake of the raid on the Word of Life
Church, Vladimir Shamrai, told Keston that raids on unregistered
religious meetings often come around the time of major holidays (see
KNS 29 November 2001). The raids on the Word of Life and Adventist
meetings came shortly after the end of the ten-day official celebration
period for the tenth anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence. It is not
known if any other religious communities experienced raids at the same
time. (END)

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