KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 15 November 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on
religion in communist and post-communist lands.
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TURKMENISTAN: FORTY DETAINED AT PROTESTANT MEETING

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

All the more than forty people attending a service of
the Word of Life Church in the Turkmen capital
Ashgabad today (15 November) were detained when the
private flat where the church was meeting was raided,
several sources in Ashgabad have told Keston News
Service. Officers of the police and of the KNB
security police (the former KGB), as well as
officials of the local hakimlik (administration),
were involved in the raid on the evening meeting.
Among those detained for interrogation were the
church�s pastor, Vladimir Shamrai, and his wife Olga.

�All the forty or fifty people present, both church
members and guests, were detained when the service
was raided,� a church member told Keston. �They were
taken outside, put in a large bus and transported to
the police station. There they are being interrogated
as we speak. We don�t yet know how it will end up.�

No Protestant churches in Turkmenistan have been
allowed to register under the country�s restrictive
religion law and registration regulations. The Word
of Life church is one of a number of Protestant
congregations functioning in Ashgabad without
registration, despite the fact that the government
considers unregistered religious activity to be
illegal.

Local Protestants fear that the church member who
hosted the gathering, a woman called Ryzhkova, risks
the confiscation of her property, as has happened to
a number of other Protestants who hosted religious
meetings in their homes. (END)