At least four Christians in Turkmenistan's capital of Ashgabad have been subjected to repeated beatings, electric shocks, partial suffocation, and other forms of torture. The Turkmen Christians are Batir Nurov, 23; Babamurat Gaebov, 27; Shokhrat Piriyev, 27; and Umit Koshkarov, 25. All belong to a Protestant house church group in Ashgabad pastored by Piriyev.

The crackdown was triggered November 22 when police officers of the National Security Committee investigating a car wreck found a box of Christian videos dubbed in the Turkmen language. Nurov, Gaebov, and Koshkarov were driving from Tejen to Ashgabad with an American visitor when two tires blew out, flipping the car over but leaving them largely unharmed.

On November 24, the four Uzbek Christians were released after paying oppressive fines. The American passenger, a resident of neighboring Kazakhstan named Linda Buckley, was questioned the night after the wreck.

Buckley is a volunteer with the Your Spiritual Life Center, a registered organization in Almaty, southeast Kazakhstan.

During the past two years, all foreign Christians known to be involved in religious work in Turkmenistan have been expelled. One Protestant church and two Hare Krishna temples have been destroyed and members of the Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh-day Adventist, and Baha'i faiths subjected to police raids and large fines.

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