« Heavy fines | Main | Pastor was given a four-year prison term »

Your faith is "against the state"

At mid-morning on 22 January, two police in uniform and three in plain clothes (thought to be from the Police 6th Department or the MSS secret police) suddenly arrived at the private flat in Turkmenabad where the Protestants had gathered, Protestants told Forum 18. Refusing to give their names or explain why they had come, the police immediately began to question the 20 or so people present as to why they had gathered. They examined discs they found and began to play them on the television, finding that they contained music and Indian films. They confiscated several discs.

Police then started seizing any notes and bags they could find, insisting that those present should explain what was there and if they refused to show them they would be taken to the police station. Police confiscated the identity documents of those present, as well as books belonging to the home owner and a camera. All of them were led out of the flat in full view of people in the yard "as if they were criminals".

Police took those present to Police Station No. 3, where they started to interrogate them individually. All were fingerprinted. Protestants told Forum 18 that both as they were being detained and at the police station, police were abusive and insulting to the mainly female detainees. During the interrogations, the police station apparently received a telephone call from Ashgabad. Officials from the Hyakimlik (city administration) arrived, as well as the city imam dressed in civilian clothes, who shouted at several of the Protestants.

The Protestants were allowed to leave the police station only late that evening after being ordered to return on 24 January. Two of the Protestants, who were from outside Turkmenabad, were ordered to stay with their friends in the flat and not to leave the city.

When all the Protestants returned to the police on 24 January, they were told the imam and the Hyakimlik officials had insisted that they all be charged with illegal religious activity, "preaching the Baptist faith".

The following day, two of the Protestants – both from outside Turkmenabad – were taken to the city court. There the judge questioned each "crudely" about which God they believed in, telling them that the imam had given an assessment that their faith was "against the state" and was banned. He fined them each 400 Manats (140 US Dollar). The two were taken directly to the bank and forced to pay the fines. Only then were their identity documents returned.

On 26 January, three more of the Protestants were fined under the same Article 205 Part 2. They were each fined 360 Manats (730 Norwegian Kroner, 90 Euros, or 125 US Dollars). They were told they would be arrested if they did not pay and that their identity documents would only be returned once they had done so. The rest of the Protestants were later threatened with similar fines. Written verdicts have not been issued.

Two of those present at the meeting were schoolchildren. Protestants told Forum 18 that they were not fined, but were made to stand before their whole schools and publicly insulted.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>