KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 8 February 2001

DRUGS. Ailing Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov is being treated in labour
camp with psychotropic drugs, according to an appeal from his family passed
on to Keston News Service by the US-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries.
The international diplomatic community is being urged to call for Atakov�s
immediate release.


by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Ailing Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov is being treated in labour camp with
psychotropic drugs, according to an appeal from his family passed on to Keston
News Service by the US-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries. `According to
Shageldy,' the family wrote in the wake of a camp visit to him on 3 and 4
February, `he is being treated with Aminazin and Prometazin, substances used
to calm down those who are psychiatrically ill and in a state of extreme
agitation. After these injections all his internal organs ache. Our husband and
brother is a psychologically normal person. Why is this being done to him?'

Aminazin (also known as Chlorpromazine, Largactil or Thorazine), a
psychotropic drug, is a major tranquilliser used for the treatment of psychosis or
mania. Prometazin or Promethazin (also known as Sonergan and Phenergan) is
an antihistamine, used for a number of purposes, including the relief of allergy,
nausea and vertigo, but it is also used as a hypnotic to induce sleep. `These are
not in themselves sinister drugs,' Jim Welsh of Amnesty International's medical
office told Keston on 8 February, `but they have very specific purposes for
which they are applicable. They should be prescribed by qualified doctors and
their use monitored. Aminazin in particular can have powerful side-effects,
such as trembling.'

The 38-year-old Atakov, who is married with five children, is serving a four
year sentence in labour camp in the town of Seydy in north eastern
Turkmenistan. The camp commander is Kh. K. Kurbanov.

Atakov was sentenced 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.

In their 7 February appeal to President Saparmurat Niyazov, the family give
further details of his poor state of health in the wake of repeated beatings and
maltreatment (see KNS 5 February 2001). `His stomach is ill, he experiences
sudden extreme intestinal pain, and high blood pressure attacks (up to 190) are
frequent. The prison warder sent him to the medical unit, where during another
high blood pressure attack the doctor administered an injection, after which
Shageldy did not regain consciousness for several days. His elbows, palms and
the opposite sides of his hands are blue and bear traces of multiple injections.
Shageldy is unable to explain where they came from.'

The family reports that Atakov picked up jaundice from reused needles. `The
intensification of stomach ulcers, heart failure, and infection with jaundice have
brought him to the point where Shageldy is barely able to walk on his own.'

During his three day spell in the punishment cell (known in Russian as a Shizo)
in late January, all Atakov's personal belongings were searched and all his
Christian literature - including his Bible � was confiscated. His Bible was
reportedly burnt.

When the amnesty commission visited Seydy camp from the middle of January
to 4 February, Atakov was summoned for questioning almost every day. KNB
officers and officials of the Supreme Court pressured him to read aloud or at
least to sign the oath of loyalty to the president which would have secured his
release under the prisoner amnesty initiated in December. However, despite his
failing health, which has brought him close to death, Atakov refused to do so.
On the last day of the commission's work in the camp, 4 February, officers told
him he could leave with his wife Artygul and children if only he submitted, but
still he refused.

The Ashgabad centre of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe has called on President Niyazov to free Atakov, as has the Helsinki
Commission of the US Congress. `It sickens me to learn of the persecution of
Baptist Shageldy Atakov, who, we believe, is being held prisoner and tortured
because of his faith,' Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Christopher Smith
declared on 7 February. `I urge the international diplomatic community to join
me in calling for his immediate release.' Amnesty International issued an urgent
appeal on 5 February declaring that `Atakov is believed to have been treated so
harshly in prison that he is in imminent danger of dying'.

Shageldy Atakov's labour camp address:
746222 Lebap vilayet,
uchr. LV-K/12,
Atakov Shageldy


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