Baptist pastor Rahim Tashov and a colleague were hauled into police headquarters in their hometown of Turkmenabad (formerly Chardjou) last Thursday, February 3. There officers of the National Security Committee (KNB, the former KGB) gave Tashov and another Turkmen identified only as Arslan "a final warning that if they ever gather people again in any place, then they will be put in prison," sources close to the case told Compass over the weekend.
Located in eastern Turkmenistan, Tashov's independent Baptist church—which like all non-Orthodox Christian churches has been refused state registration—has already been forced to halt all public activity, even worship services. Over the past year, Turkmen authorities have moved to crush all unregistered religious practices.
During the interrogation, the KNB also asked Tashov about his brother Ruslan, who is studying at a Christian college in Russia. "If they don't return, or try to continue their education at the Christian university, we will make life difficult for them," the KNB officers reportedly told Rahim. "Turkmenistan has no need for people with that type of education. If they don't come back, then let them take Russian citizenship and stay there forever!"
The pastor has faced constant police pressure. "Rahim was again recently taken to the police and forced to write a statement about what had happened," sources had told Compass on January 30. At the same time, Tashov is still being refused the return of his passport, which was taken from him at the time of his arrest last October. Despite repeated attempts, he has been unable to get it back.
"Each time Tashov goes to the procuracy to ask for the passport back he is told: 'The person you need is not here, come back this afternoon ...1
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