KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 23 July 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

TURKMENISTAN: ATAKOV BACK IN TURKMENBASHI PRISON.
Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov has been returned to prison in
Turkmenbashi, Keston News Service has learnt from the German-based
Friedensstimme Mission. In May he was unexpectedly transferred to the
Turkmen capital Ashgabad, where attempts were made by the political
police, the KNB (former KGB), to persuade him and his family to agree to
leave the country for the United States (see KNS 14 May 2001). Both he and
his wife declined.

TURKMENISTAN: ATAKOV BACK IN TURKMENBASHI PRISON

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov has been returned to the Interior Ministry
prison in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk), Keston
News Service has learnt from the German-based Friedensstimme Mission.
The prison, which holds some 700 prisoners, was where Atakov had been
held since March until his surprise transfer by plane to the Turkmen capital
Ashgabad in May in a bid to persuade him and his family to agree to leave
the country for the United States (see KNS 14 May 2001). His wife Artygul
was taken by car from Kaakhka for a meeting with her husband at the
headquarters of Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB (former KGB), but
both declined to leave the country.

Among those trying to persuade Atakov to agree to emigration in exchange
for freedom was the head of the KNB, Muhammed Nazarov. The KNB also
tried unsuccessfully to use Atakov's mother to persuade him to agree to
emigrate.

Atakov was returned to the Turkmenbashi prison about a week after being
transferred to Ashgabad.

Atakov - a member of a congregation of the Council of Churches of
Evangelical Christians/Baptists - is serving a four year sentence on charges
fellow Baptists believe were fabricated to punish him for his activity in the
Baptist church in Turkmenbashi, where he was arrested in December 1998.
His sentence runs until December next year.

Atakov's address in prison:
745000 MVD Turkmenistana
BL-t/5 Departamenta politsii Balkanskogo velayata
g. Turkmenbashi
Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is the most religiously repressive of all the former Soviet
republics. Most religious faiths are in effect banned, rendering all religious
practice by Protestants, Armenian Apostolic Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses,
Bahais, Jews, Hare Krishna devotees and Muslims outside the framework of
the officially-sanctioned Muslim Board liable to punishment.

Local members of Council of Churches congregations have told
Friedensstimme that despite continuing pressure on other Christian churches
in recent months, their congregations have suffered less harassment. (END)

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