KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 12 February 2001

I. TURKMENISTAN: YET FURTHER RAID ON PROTESTANT
CHURCH. Another Protestant Christian church in Turkmenistan's capital
Ashgabad has been raided in the continuing government attempts to stamp
out religious minorities. A meeting of the New Life church on 2 February
was raided by police, officers of Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB
(formerly the KGB), and officials of the khyakimlik (local administration) of
the city's Niyazov district. It is believed that some of those attending have
been fined, although this has not yet been confirmed.

II. TURKMENISTAN: PROTESTANT QUESTIONED AS MANHUNT
CONTINUES. Turkmenistan's political police the KNB (former KGB) have
detained a young Protestant Christian three times for questioning in the past
two weeks as the nationwide manhunt for a pastor and his colleagues
continues. Nikolai Ognev was taken in for questioning after he went to
recover the pastor�s car on 29 January and on two occasions since then, once
for a whole day and twice all morning, but he has not been arrested
(correction to KNS 1 February 2001).

I. TURKMENISTAN: YET FURTHER RAID ON PROTESTANT
CHURCH

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Yet another Protestant Christian church in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabad
has been raided in the continuing government attempts to stamp out religious
minorities. Keston News Service has learnt from sources in Ashgabad that in
the evening of 2 February a meeting of the New Life church was raided by
police, officers of Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB (formerly the
KGB), and officials of the khyakimlik (local administration) of the city's
Niyazov district. It is believed that some of those attending have been fined,
although this has not yet been confirmed.

The New Life church - which meets in a private home - does not have
registration with the government. Although Turkmenistan's religion law
guarantees freedom to hold religious meetings in private homes and does not
forbid unregistered religious activity, the government treats all such activity
as illegal.

Last month saw increased pressure on Protestant communities, including
fines on members of the Pentecostal church and the Church of Christ in
Ashgabad, raids and pressure on members of Ashgabad's Greater Grace and
Word of Life churches, the revocation of the residence permit in the Caspian
port city of Turkmenbashi and expulsion of a leading pastor of a Baptist
church and the detention of a Protestant Christian in the capital by police
searching for three Protestant leaders currently in hiding (see KNS 2
February 2001).

Turkmenistan's religious policy is the most repressive of all the former
Soviet republics and Protestant Christians are among religious groups whose
activity is deemed illegal. Only communities of the Sunni Muslim Board and
the Russian Orthodox Church have been allowed to gain state recognition.
Almost all Protestant churches - including the Baptists, Pentecostals and
Adventists - as well as communities of Jehovah's Witnesses, Hare Krishna
devotees and Bahais have faced severe pressure in the past four years in a
bid to stamp out their activities. Groups that have been prevented from
reviving their activity in the country include the Lutherans, Jews and the
Armenian Apostolic Church. The Catholic Church is only able to conduct
religious activity on Vatican diplomatic territory. (END)


II. TURKMENISTAN: PROTESTANT QUESTIONED AS MANHUNT
CONTINUES

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Turkmenistan's political police the KNB (former KGB) have detained a
young Protestant Christian three times for questioning in the past two weeks
as the nationwide manhunt for a pastor and his colleagues continues. Sources
in the Turkmen capital Ashgabad have told Keston News Service that the
KNB questioned Nikolai Ognev on 29 January and on two occasions since
then, once for a whole day and twice all morning, but he has not been
arrested (correction to KNS 1 February 2001).

Ognev was taken in for questioning after he went to recover the car
belonging to Protestant pastor Shokhrat Piriyev. Piriyev, pastor of an ethnic
Turkmen church in the town of Bezmein near Ashgabad, who has been in
hiding with two colleagues and their families since the end of last year after
being beaten and tortured. All three families were expelled from their homes,
which were then confiscated. The KNB apparently believed Ognev might
have information about the whereabouts of Piriyev and his colleagues, Batyr
Nurov and Umit Kochkarov.

Keston has learnt that a further church member, Babamurat Goiymov, who
left for his home village near Turkmenabad (formerly Charjou) in the north
east of the country after the eviction of his three colleagues, returned to
Ashgabad on 11 February. He had been repeatedly summoned by police in
Turkmenabad, on one occasion being held for three days.
(END)