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Forum18 (12/19/05) – …Raids are continuing against Baptists in Turkmenistan . On Saturday 17 December, a prayer meeting of the Turkmen-speaking registered Baptist church in the town of Deynau , in the north-eastern Lebap region, was raided, Protestant sources have told Forum 18. Seven church members were holding a house group meeting when a Ministry of State Security (MSS) secret police officer who refused to give his name, a police officer called Sultanov, a Public Prosecutor called Isaev, and a local Imam called Murtazaev raided the house of a new convert to Protestant Christianity, Oguldurdy (full name unknown). During the raid, the MSS secret police officer and Prosecutor started shouting and threatening all the Christians who were present, and the officials then searched the house without a search warrant – which is illegal in Turkmenistan – for religious literature. Two Christians had their personal Bibles confiscated.

Later, the seven Baptists were taken to the Public Prosecutor’s Office where they were again threatened and insulted. Officials told the Baptists that local authorities should hold public meetings in villages, where Christians should be personally named and denounced as traitors. The officials also threatened one woman with expulsion from her rented flat. The MSS secret police agent “became very angry” when asked for his name, Forum 18 was told, the MSS agent responding to this request with more threats and insults. The detained Baptists were forced to justify their actions in writing to the authorities, before being released.

The leaders of the Baptist Church in Deynau, Narmurat Mominov and Murat (last name unknown) are currently being put “under strong pressure,” Forum 18 has learnt. Pastor Mominov gave Lebap regional authorities a copy of the registration certificate of Turkmenistan’s Baptist Union, which was registered centrally in Ashgabad in 2004 (see F18News 9 August 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=390). However, the regional authorities refused to accept the registration certificate, instead threatening Baptists with further attacks. Officials in Turkmenistan frequently deny that the registration of nationally registered religious organisations applies throughout the country (see eg. F18News 31 March http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=535 and 2 August 2005 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=623).

Separately, Jehovah’s Witness sources have told Forum 18 that their situation continues to deteriorate, with illegal house searches without a search warrant continuing, along with the confiscation of religious literature and personal identity documents. A disturbing trend noted by Jehovah’s Witnesses is that their members are increasingly being brought before courts, instead of the previous practice of trial by administrative commissions of Khyakimliks (local administrative bodies). Fines imposed by district courts are noticeably higher, as instead of the previous “normal” fine of 250,000 Manats (321 Norwegian Kroner, 40 Euros, or 48 US Dollars), fines now range between 1,250,000 Manats (1,603 Norwegian Kroner, 200 Euros, or 240 US Dollars) and 2,000,000 Manats (2,566 Norwegian Kroner, 320 Euros, or 384 US Dollars). The minimum monthly wage is 1,500,000 Manats (1,924 Norwegian Kroner, 240 Euros or 289 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate)…[Go To Full Story]