KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 5 February 2001

TURKMENISTAN: BAPTIST PRISONER PREPARES FOR DEATH. Baptist
prisoner Shageldy Atakov is reported to be in such poor physical condition that
he is preparing for death, following repeated beatings and a heart attack. Local
Baptists believe the authorities of the camp in the town of Seydy in north-
eastern Turkmenistan where he is being held are now carrying out instructions
`to break him morally or destroy him physically'. `They have decided to finish
him off.'

TURKMENISTAN: BAPTIST PRISONER PREPARES FOR DEATH

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov is reported to be in such poor physical
condition in the wake of repeated beatings, a spell in the labour camp sick-bay
in December with early signs of a heart attack, then a spell in the internal camp
prison in January, that he is preparing for death. The German-based
Friedensstimme Mission, citing Baptist sources in Turkmenistan, told Keston
News Service on 3 February that the amnesty commission that recently visited
the labour camp told the authorities `to break him morally or destroy him
physically'. Local Baptists believe the authorities of the camp in the town of
Seydy in north-eastern Turkmenistan where he is being held are now carrying
this out. `They have decided to finish him off.'

On 3 and 4 February Atakov was allowed a visit from his wife Artygul. During
the visit he was reportedly bruised and battered, his kidneys and liver hurt and
he was suffering from jaundice. He could barely walk and frequently lost
consciousness. `He does not expect to live,' Friedensstimme reported. `He said
farewell.'

Atakov had earlier been reported as recovering well from the early symptoms of
a heart attack he suffered in December (see KNS 26 January 2001, which
wrongly gave the date as January). It is not known why he was sent to the camp
prison (known in Russian as a SHIZO) in January.

Friedensstimme reported that the amnesty commission had offered that if he
swore the oath of allegiance to the president he would be freed under the
amnesty declared by President Saparmurat Niyazov in December (see KNS 5
January 2001). `If not, they would destroy him,' local Baptists told
Friedensstimme.

The mission in Ashgabad of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (of which Turkmenistan is a member) told Keston that it has been
following Atakov's case with concern. `Over the past year every high-level
visitor we've had has mentioned his name as one of a number of cases with the
Turkmen authorities and our head of office Ambassador Istvan Venczel has
taken up his case,' Bess Brown told Keston from Ashgabad on 5 February.
`Since the freeing of [political prisoners] Nurberdi Nurmamedov and Pirimguly
Tangryguliyev in the December amnesty, the OSCE has continued to express
concern about Atakov and is urging the Turkmen authorities to free him.'

The 38-year-old Atakov, who is married with five children, is serving a four
year sentence 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.

Atakov belongs to a Baptist congregation affiliated with the Council of
Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists, a group founded in the Soviet
Union in the 1960s and which refuses to register in any of the post-Soviet
republics where it operates. Its congregations in Turkmenistan have been
subjected to particular persecution.

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

(END)

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