KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 21 February 2001

TURKMENISTAN: NO RESPONSE TO OSCE PRISON HOSPITAL
VISIT REQUEST. More than a week after requesting a visit to ailing Baptist
prisoner Shageldy Atakov in the prison hospital where he is being held,
Ambassador Istvan Venczel, of the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation (OSCE), has still had no response to his request from the
Turkmen authorities. Atakov is still being pressured to swear the oath of
loyalty to the president and the state, something he has consistently refused
to do on religious grounds.

TURKMENISTAN: NO RESPONSE TO OSCE PRISON HOSPITAL
VISIT REQUEST

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

More than a week after requesting a visit to ailing Baptist prisoner Shageldy
Atakov in the prison hospital where he is being held, Ambassador Istvan
Venczel, the head of the Ashgabad centre of the Organisation for Security
and Cooperation (OSCE), has still had no response to his request from the
Turkmen authorities. `There has been no official response whatsoever,' Bess
Brown, political officer of the OSCE centre, told Keston News Service from
Ashgabad on 21 February.

Ambassador Venczel lodged his request to visit Atakov on 12 February after
reports emerged of Atakov's transfer from labour camp in Seydy to the
prison hospital in Mary in rapidly failing health after maltreatment including
beatings and forcible treatment with the psychotropic drug Aminazin (see
KNS 13 February 2001).

Local Baptists in Turkmenistan report that even in the prison hospital
Atakov is still being pressured to swear the oath of loyalty to the president
and the state, something he has consistently refused to do on religious
grounds. `Atakov is still being intimidated and pressured, in spite of his poor
health condition,' the US-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries told Keston
on 20 February, citing reports from local Baptists. They add that it is not yet
known whether the forcible treatment with psychotropic drugs is still
continuing in the prison hospital.

Keston has been unable to get the telephone number of the commander of
Mary prison, Gazanov, to ask about Atakov's treatment.

Russian Evangelistic Ministries reports that the prison hospital is located
inside Mary prison and is believed to be the only prison in Turkmenistan that
has a hospital facility on the prison ground (the Seydy camp could only
provide basic medical treatment). It appears that once his health improves
the prison authorities plan to transfer Atakov into the main prison. It is
reported that he is threatened with being held in the `closed regime' used for
the most dangerous criminals, where they are confined to barracks. `Going
from the barracks to the work area, and vice versa, allows prisoners to get
some fresh air. It is the only relief during incarceration.'

Atakov's address in prison is:
Turkmenistan
Mary,
uchr. MR-KKh/15,
Atakov, Shageldy

Atakov, who will be 39 next month and is married with five children, was
sentenced on charges of swindling which members of his Baptist church
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. (END)