Keston News Service Summary: Estonia, Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan


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Subject: Keston News Service Summary: Estonia, Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan

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Keston News Service Summary: Estonia, Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan

 
KESTON INSTITUTE, OXFORD, UK
______________________________________
 
KESTON NEWS SERVICE SUMMARY             4-7 September 2001
 
Summaries of recent reporting on violations of religious liberty and
on religion in communist and post-communist lands.
______________________________________
 
ESTONIA: 'NO VISA BAN FOR RUSSIAN PRIESTS' SAYS MOSCOW EMBASSY. (6
Sept.) The Estonian consulate in Moscow has refused to grant a visa to
a Moscow-based Russian Orthodox priest, but an official of Estonia's
Moscow embassy has denied to Keston News Service claims by some
Orthodox that there is a policy of refusing visas to Russian Orthodox
clergy. However, the official declined to say why the priest had been
refused a visa to attend the consecration of a new Orthodox church in
Estonia. A Moscow Patriarchate spokesman pointed out that Estonian
visas are difficult to obtain for Russian citizens in general.

TURKMENISTAN: FURTHER RAID ON GREATER GRACE MEETING. (4 Sept.) Keston
has learned that the police, the district administration and the
secret police have again raided a prayer meeting held by the Greater
Grace Protestant church in Ashgabad, detaining and interrogating all
those present. The Protestants were told that they are not allowed to
meet for prayer as their church is not registered. Although the head
of the district police department admitted that church members had
been detained, neither the police nor the district authorities were
prepared to discuss the raid. One official, who refused to give his
name, told Keston that 'If you want to defend these good-for-nothings,
then come to Ashgabad. We're not going to speak to anyone at Oxford or
at Bishkek.' (See full article below)

UZBEKISTAN: KNS SPECIAL REPORT ON ABUSE OF LAW ON RELIGION. (7 Sept.).
Although Uzbekistan's 1998 law regulating the activity of religious
organisations nominally protects the right to freedom of conscience
and religion, in practice it is being used not only to control but
also to persecute members of religious minorities. A decree passed by
the Uzbek Cabinet shortly after the law came into force gives local
and district authorities almost unlimited power to refuse registration
to religious communities. Keston has discovered that unregistered
organisations such as the Baptist Bethany congregation are typically
regarded as illegal by local Uzbek authorities and face increasing
harassment as a result.

TURKMENISTAN: FURTHER RAID ON GREATER GRACE MEETING

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service

On 15 August ten officials from the police, the district
administration and the National Security Committee (KNB, the former
KGB secret police) burst into a private flat in the Kopetdag district
of the Turkmen capital Ashgabad, where around 20 members of the
Greater Grace Protestant church had gathered for prayer, Protestant
sources in Turkmenistan have told Keston News Service. All the church
members present were taken to the Second Police Department of Kopetdag
district, where KNB officers interrogated each one separately,
recording where the church members worked and warning them that they
were not allowed to meet for prayer as their church was unregistered.
After five hours the church members were released. 

A member of the Greater Grace church, who preferred not to be
identified, told Keston that it was the second time this year that the
authorities had detained church members while they were conducting
prayers in a private flat (see KNS 25 January 2001).

Speaking to Keston by telephone on 31 August, the head of the Kopetdag
Second Police Department, Komgeldy Sopregeldy, admitted that the
church members had been detained. He declared that the action had been
taken under the auspices of the KNB of Kopetdag district and
recommended that Keston should ask that organisation for a comment.
However, when Keston reached the Kopetdag district KNB by telephone
from Bishkek the same day, no officer was prepared to discuss the
case. One KNB officer, who refused to identify himself, told Keston:
'If you want to defend these good-for-nothings, then come to Ashgabad.
We're not going to speak to anyone at Oxford or at Bishkek.'

A call by Keston on 31 August to the special administrative commission
at the Kopetdag district administration also proved fruitless. (The
administrative commission is particularly concerned with seeking out
unregistered places of worship.) An employee at the commission, Merdam
Chariyev, told Keston: 'We know what case you are referring to, but we
will only comment in response to a written request from Keston
Institute. For now, I can tell you just one thing: the law is being
observed in Turkmenistan.'

Turkmenistan's published laws on religion do not specifically ban
unregistered religious activity, although state officials repeatedly
insist that such activity is 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 five 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.


Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.


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