KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 21 March 2001

TURKMENISTAN: ATAKOV BACK IN PRISON CAMP, IN
PUNISHMENT CELL. Ailing Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov was sent
back to the labour camp in Seydy in north eastern Turkmenistan on 1 March,
just weeks after being transferred to the prison hospital in the town of Mary,
the German-based Friedensstimme mission told Keston News Service on 20
March. He is reportedly imprisoned in a punishment cell at the moment. The
Turkmen authorities have so far resisted all pressure to free Atakov.

TURKMENISTAN: ATAKOV BACK IN PRISON CAMP, IN
PUNISHMENT CELL

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Ailing Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov was sent back to the labour camp in
Seydy in north eastern Turkmenistan on 1 March, just weeks after being
transferred to the prison hospital in the town of Mary, the German-based
Friedensstimme mission told Keston News Service on 20 March. `The camp
administration is giving assurances that Shageldy Atakov is healthy and
well,' the mission notes, although it warns that `official organs of power in
Turkmenistan have of late thoroughly hidden the circumstances of what is
happening to Atakov'. It added that it had also received a report that Atakov
has been placed in a punishment cell (`pomeshchenie kamernogo tipa' in
Russian) for one month.

Keston has been unable to obtain the telephone number of the Seydy camp to
ask the commander, Kh. K. Kurbanov, about the state of Atakov's health and
why he has been sent to punishment cell.

On 10 January the chairman-in-office of the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana,
called on the Turkmen authorities to free Atakov. In mid-February the
OSCE's Ashgabad centre asked for permission from the authorities to visit
Atakov, but there has been no response and no apparent progress towards his
release. On 23 February the European Union lodged a demarche with the
Turkmen foreign minister, Batyr Berdiev, calling for Atakov to be freed, but
there has been no formal response to the demarche (see KNS 12 March
2001).

Atakov, who marked his 39th birthday on 19 March, is married with five
children. He is serving a four year sentence on charges of fraud and forging
documents. Local Baptists insist these accusations � relating to his activities
as a car-dealer before he became a Christian � were merely the excuse to
punish Atakov for his activities with the Baptist church in the port city of
Turkmenbashi. His church - whose activities the Turkmen authorities claim
are illegal - is a member of the Council of Churches of Evangelical
Christians/Baptists, which rejects registration in all the former Soviet
republics where it operates.

The Turkmen authorities have so far resisted all pressure to free Atakov,
despite his poor health caused by repeated beatings in labour camp, forcible
treatment with psychotropic drugs and medical neglect. He was offered
amnesty in January on condition he swear the oath of loyalty to the president
and country on a copy of the Koran, but he declined.

Atakov's address in camp is:
Turkmenistan,
746222 Lebap vilayet,
Seydy,
uchr. LV-K/12,
Atakov Shageldy
(END)

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