KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 23 April 2001

TURKMENISTAN: RUSSIAN PROTESTANT FREED AFTER FOUR
DAYS. A Russian Pentecostal Christian has been freed after being held in
detention for four days in the eastern town of Turkmenabad, Protestant
sources told Keston News Service from Turkmenistan. Yevgeny Samsonov
was reportedly tortured and beaten while in the hands of Turkmenistan's
political police, the KNB (former KGB), who tried to force him to sign
documents incriminating himself.

TURKMENISTAN: RUSSIAN PROTESTANT FREED AFTER FOUR
DAYS

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

A Russian Pentecostal Christian has been freed after being held in detention
for four days in the eastern town of Turkmenabad (formerly Charjou),
Protestant sources told Keston News Service from Turkmenistan. Yevgeny
Samsonov, a member of the Word of Life Pentecostal church originally from
the Russian city of Novosibirsk, was reportedly maltreated while in the
hands of Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB (former KGB), who tried
to force him to sign documents incriminating himself. `Although he was
tortured and beaten, he did not sign any documents the KGB was pressuring
him to sign,' one source told Keston on 17 April.

Although Samsonov left Turkmenistan for Russia soon after his release,
Keston has been unable to reach him by telephone so far.

The US-based news service Compass Direct reported on 12 April that the
KNB arrested 26-year-old Samsonov at his rented flat in Turkmenabad on 9
April, using his neighbour's balcony to gain access. They claimed he had
never obtained the required visa to live in the country (citizens of the
Russian Federation require visas and residence permits to live in
Turkmenistan).

`He was tortured several times during the last two days,' a local source told
Compass on 11 April, adding that the authorities were believed to be trying
to force Samsonov to sign a document incriminating himself as `a person
who acts against President [Saparmurat] Niyazov of Turkmenistan'.

It is not clear whether Samsonov left Turkmenistan voluntarily or whether he
was expelled. Many foreign citizens the government accused of being
involved in religious activity, including dozens of Protestants and hundreds
of Muslims, have been expelled in the past few years.

Meanwhile, Compass also reported that four Turkmen Protestants from the
capital Ashgabad, all converts from Islam to Christianity who were arrested,
tortured and evicted from their homes by the KNB last November and
December, have fled the country with their families. The four - Shokhrat
Piriyev, Batyr Nurov, Umit Kochkarov and Babamurat Goiymov - had been
implicated in the use of `contraband' Christian videos in the Turkmen
language (see KNS 1 February 2001). The Turkmen authorities had launched
a national manhunt in a bid to arrest them again.

Turkmenistan has the harshest policy towards religious minorities of all the
former Soviet republics. Only communities of the state-sponsored Muslim
Board and the Russian Orthodox Church have registration. All other faiths
are treated as illegal. (END)