Persecution of Baptist Christians continues in the country. Even in Azerbaigian a Baptist pastor is arrested, as our journalists while critical newspapers are shut down.
Ashgabat (AsiaNews/Agencies) –May 19 in Turkmenbashi secret police arrested Yevgeny Potolov, head of the Council of Churches Baptist congregation in the city. Christians are also persecuted in Azerbaijan.
Forum 18 news agency reports that no charges have been brought against him and that Potolov situation mirrors that of Vyacheslav Kalataevsky, sentenced to three years in a labour camp for having returned to the country without documents. Potolov was stripped of his visa and expelled from the country in June 2001 on charges of having participated in religious events with an unregistered group. He then returned to the country, where his family remained.
As well as jailing Vyacheslav Kalataevsky in a labour camp, the authorities have seized furniture from his family after his wife refused to pay a fine for holding worship services in her home, amounting 250 thousand manat (7 Euro).
In Turkmenistan it is illegal for any non-registered religious group to hold ceremonies or even gather in prayer. The Council of Baptist Churches refuses to register itself, maintaining that it would only serve to further state control.
A crack down on Christians is also taking place in Azerbaijan, where May 20th in the remote village of Aliabad (Zakatala, North West district) police raided a service held by Pastor Zaur Balaev arresting him on charges of “resistance”. But Forum 18 tells that the faithful present at the meeting negate the pastor’s resistance, instead describing the event a san “act of intimidation”. The police also in the case contest that fact that the group is not registered.
Azerbaijan is also under criticism because it is the country from the Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe, (Osce) with the highest number of journalists currently in detention according to the Journalists without borders group. Newspapers critical of the President Jalal Aliyev, such as Realniy Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaijan have also been shut down on pretexts that they failed to respect fire laws.