During the past two weeks, Turkmenistan's political police have launched another harsh crackdown against its Protestant Christian citizens. At least four known believers in the capital of Ashgabad have been subjected to repeated beatings, electric shocks, partial suffocation and other forms of torture while under interrogation, prosecution and ongoing harassment.

The four Turkmen Christians were identified as Batir Nurov, 23; Babamurat Gaebov, 27; Shokhrat Piriyev, 27; and Umit Koshkarov, 25. Although Gaebov is single, the other three men are married and have children. All are members of a Protestant house church group in Ashgabad pastored by Piriyev.

According to accounts relayed to Compass from several sources, the crackdown was triggered on the morning of November 22 when police officers of the National Security Committee (KNB) investigating a car wreck found a box of Christian videos dubbed in the Turkmen language.

The previous evening, Nurov, Gaebov and Koshkarov had been driving from Tejen to Ashgabad with an American visitor when two tires blew out, flipping the car over. They all climbed out of the overturned car unharmed, except for a minor head injury sustained by Koshkarov, and flagged down a passing vehicle to return to their homes in Ashgabad.

When Nurov and Gaebov returned with Piriyev to the wrecked car the next morning to assess the damage, they were promptly put under arrest and taken to the nearest KNB offices for questioning. Later that day, the police traced Koshkarov from his treatment record at a local hospital the night before and arrested him at his home.

For three days the men were subjected to what one source described as "repeated sessions of beatings, electric shock and suffocation to the point of ...

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