KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 26 January 2001

TURKMENISTAN: BAPTIST PRISONER RECOVERS FROM HEART
ATTACK. Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov is recovering from a heart attack
he suffered earlier in January in labour camp. The 38-year-old had to spend a
week in the labour camp sick-bay, although he is now reportedly back in the
main camp. Atakov is serving a four year sentence on charges of swindling
which church members insist were instigated to obstruct his activity with the
church.

TURKMENISTAN: BAPTIST PRISONER RECOVERS FROM HEART
ATTACK

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov is recovering well from a heart attack he
suffered earlier in January in labour camp in the town of Seydy in north-eastern
Turkmenistan, Keston News Service has learnt. Atakov had to spend a week in
the labour camp sick-bay, although he is now reportedly back in the main camp.

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.

The German-based Friedensstimme Mission, which maintains close links with
the Council of Churches, told Keston on 26 January that Atakov suffered his
heart attack two weeks earlier, and spent a week in the labour camp sick-bay,
from where he has now been discharged.

Despite the release of some 12,000 prisoners in the wake of a presidential
amnesty last December, Atakov and four Jehovah's Witness prisoners were not
freed (see KNS 5 January 2001). However, the amnesty has freed many of the
prisoners in the Seydy camp which, according to information reaching
Friedensstimme, now contains only some 300 prisoners. It is believed that two
of the Jehovah's Witness prisoners - Yazmammed Annamammedov and
Guvanch Ashirov - have been transferred to the Seydy camp from the camp in
Bezmein, which is due for closure.

Friedensstimme adds that Atakov's wife Artygul and family remain under
`village arrest' in Kaakhka, after being forcibly subjected to `internal
deportation' (without judicial sanction) from the town of Mary in early February
last year on KNB orders.

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

Meanwhile, the Friedensstimme Mission also reports that Turkmenistan's
political police, the KNB (formerly the KGB) are searching for two Baptists
who escaped the deportations of hundreds of foreign citizens involved in
religious activity, which took place in 1999 and 2000. Those deportations saw
six Baptist families summarily expelled, with the most recent Baptist expellee
being deported in May last year (see KNS 26 May 2000). KNB officers have
recently visited the homes of the two Baptists, who hold Russian citizenship
and have been living in Turkmenistan legally, in what local believers fear is a
prelude to deportation. (END)

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