Monday, May 2, 2011

Concerns for imprisoned Turkmenistan pastor

Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev
(Photo ASSIST New)
Friends of Turkmenistan Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev are increasingly concerned about his health in the Seydi Labour Camp, they told Forum 18 News Service.

Pastor Nurliev, who leads Light to the World Protestant Church in the town of Mary east of Ashgabad, was arrested in August 2010. He was given a four-year labour camp term in October 2010 with "forcible medical treatment" on charges of swindling.

His community insists the charges were fabricated to punish him for his religious activity, as he had tried in vain to register his church. In December 2010, he was transferred to the Seydi Labour Camp.

Nurliev, a 46-year-old grandfather of two, suffers from diabetes and had regular treatment before his imprisonment. The labour camp administration will only allow treatment for him if he has a certificate from the hospital, but the hospital will only give such a certificate if he comes in person. The camp administration has refused to put Nurliev in the Camp's medical unit.

Adding to the family's difficulties, Nurliev's wife Maya lost her job at a local firm in March, after she took unpaid leave to travel. Authorities have applied heavy pressure, including threats of dismissal from employment, against Maya and other church members.

Also, Maya had been denied any opportunity to ensure Nurliev himself received the diabetic medicines he needed since his August 2010 arrest.

Police have again been pressuring members of Nurliev's church, asking them if his wife Maya is gathering them for worship services or meetings. "Church members have been summoned," Protestants who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18. "Police warned them: if we find out the church has been meeting, we'll do the same to you as we did to Ilmurad.”

Under Turkmenistan's harsh Religion Law, all unregistered religious activity is illegal. Communities which function without registration face the constant threat of police raids, threats and punishments.

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