KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 7 June 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

TURKMENISTAN: NEW DEADLINE FOR CONSCRIPTED BAPTIST. A
young Baptist forcibly drafted into the armed forces last month has been
transferred out of the military unit where he had been subjected to torture,
Keston News Service has learnt. However, he has been given a deadline of
10 June to swear the obligatory military oath or face prosecution. He refuses
to serve in the armed forces or swear the military oath on religious grounds.
Turkmenistan has no alternative service and imprisons conscientious
objectors.

TURKMENISTAN: NEW DEADLINE FOR CONSCRIPTED BAPTIST

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

A young Baptist from the Turkmen capital Ashgabad forcibly drafted into
the armed forces last month has been transferred out of the military unit
where he had been subjected to torture (see KNS 18 May 2001), Keston
News Service has learnt. However, his troubles are not over. He has been
given a deadline of 10 June to swear the obligatory military oath or face
prosecution under the criminal code. Dmitri Melnichenko refuses to serve in
the armed forces or swear the military oath on religious grounds.
Turkmenistan has no alternative service and imprisons conscientious
objectors.

Local Baptists reported in a statement of 3 June - passed to Keston by the
German-based Friedensstimme mission - that Melnichenko was transferred
on 1 June by order of the Ministry of Defence to another unit in the town of
Serdar (formerly Kyzyl-Arvat) in western Turkmenistan. The following day
he was summoned to the procuracy, where he was told by the deputy
procurator that if he continues to refuse to take the oath a criminal case will
be initiated against him and he will be imprisoned.

The Friedensstimme mission reported that a fellow-Baptist was able to visit
Melnichenko on 2 June and reported that he felt well, despite still suffering
the after-effects of beatings he sustained at the hands of the local KNB,
Turkmenistan's political police, on 15 May. Others in the military unit are
said to treat him well, except for the leadership, which is reported to be
under pressure `from above' to put pressure on Melnichenko.

Although Keston has not been able to verify the latest report on
Melnichenko independently, information from sources within the Council of
Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists has a long track record of
reliability.

Melnichenko's church in Ashgabad, which belongs to the Council of
Churches, has been subjected to repeated government pressure.

The address of Melnichenko's unit is:

Turkmenistan,
745150 Balkan Region,
Serdar,
v/ch 48798,
18-y voenny gorodok, d. 34
Melnichenko Dmitri
(END)

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