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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 17, 01-01-25

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 5, No. 17, 25 January 2001


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] DETAINED ARMENIAN BUSINESSMAN HOSPITALIZED
  • [02] ARMENIA, IRAN DISCUSS INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
  • [03] AZERBAIJANI, FRENCH PRESIDENTS MEET
  • [04] UN COORDINATING COUNCIL FOR ABKHAZIA MEETS
  • [05] GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY COMPLAINS OF INADEQUATE FUNDING
  • [06] INDEPENDENT PAPER FINED FOR SLANDER IN KAZAKHSTAN
  • [07] U.S. CONDEMNS SENTENCE ON KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN...
  • [08] ...AS HIS SUPPORTERS, ALLIES VOW PROTESTS
  • [09] NEW JOB CREATION PROGRAM UNVEILED IN KYRGYZSTAN
  • [10] TAJIK OFFICIAL SAYS ADMITTING REFUGEES WOULD SPUR DRUG-SMUGGLING, FUNDAMENTALISM
  • [11] TURKMEN COURT POSTPONES APPEAL AGAINST CONFISCATION OF PENTECOSTAL CHURCH

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] DJINDJIC CALLS HAGUE CHARGES AGAINST MILOSEVIC 'HEARSAY...'
  • [13] DJINDJIC WANTS THREE-YEAR EXTENSION OF YUGOSLAV FEDERATION
  • [14] COUNCIL OF EUROPE SLAMS SERBIAN STANCE ON MILOSEVIC...
  • [15] ... AS DOES WASHINGTON
  • [16] SERBIAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST WANTS MILOSEVIC IN THE HAGUE
  • [17] HAGUE COURT TO DEAL WITH POSTWAR KOSOVA?
  • [18] KOSOVA GOVERNOR WANTS PRISONERS SENT HOME FROM SERBIA
  • [19] SERBIAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION SLAMS GOVERNMENT POLICY TOWARD ALBANIANS
  • [20] KFOR DETAINS VOA REPORTER, TWO OTHERS
  • [21] MONTENEGRO TO VOTE ON 22 APRIL
  • [22] CROATIA TO STEP UP PROSECUTION OF WAR CRIMINALS
  • [23] CROATIA BACKS OFF ON ISRAELI MIG MODERNIZATION
  • [24] MACEDONIA LAUNCHES WIRETAP INVESTIGATION
  • [25] ARRESTS IN GRENADE INCIDENT IN MACEDONIA
  • [26] ROMANIAN PREMIER IN BRUSSELS
  • [27] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL ORGANIZATIONS
  • [28] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPOINTS NEW OFFICIAL NEWS AGENCY BOSS
  • [29] NO ROMANIAN CABINET MINISTER HAS SERVED FORMER SECRET POLICE
  • [30] GAGAUZ-YERI STILL CONSIDERING PARTICIPATION IN MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS
  • [31] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT AGAINST INITIATIVE TO OUTLAW FASCISTS, NAZI AND COMMUNISTS
  • [32] TRANSDNIESTER WILL NOT ALLOW MOLDOVAN BALLOT
  • [33] FORMER BULGARIAN SECRET POLICE CHIEF CHARGED
  • [34] BULGARIAN PROSECUTOR SAYS POLICE REPEATEDLY INFRINGING SURVEILLANCE LAW
  • [35] FORMER BULGARIAN KING TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT?
  • [36] DISSENTING BULGARIAN CLERGY INVITE POPE TO VISIT

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [37] TURKMENISTAN CRUSHES RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] DETAINED ARMENIAN BUSINESSMAN HOSPITALIZED

    Arkadii Vartanian, who was taken into custody last October and subsequently charged with calling for the overthrow of the Armenian leadership, was transferred on 22 January from the remand prison of the National Security Ministry to the Institute of Cardiology of the Ministry of Health, Noyan Tapan reported the following day. Vartanian's wife Elena had told journalists on 22 January that he was suffering from high blood pressure (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2001). LF

    [02] ARMENIA, IRAN DISCUSS INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

    Iranian Finance and Economy Minister Hossein Namazi and Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian signed a "memorandum of understanding" in Yerevan on 24 January following a meeting of the inter-governmental council on economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Under the terms of that memorandum, the two sides pledge to raise bilateral trade turnover from last year's level of $100 million to $250 million in 2001, and to coordinate final preparations for construction of a 140 kilometer gas pipeline to supply Armenia with Iranian natural gas. Namazi met on 23 January with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, who called for closer cooperation between "two countries with common interests" in the South Caucasus. On 24 January, Namazi met with President Robert Kocharian, who characterized relations between Armenia and Iran as "a strategic partnership." LF

    [03] AZERBAIJANI, FRENCH PRESIDENTS MEET

    Visiting Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev met in Paris on 24 January for lunch with his French counterpart Jacques Chirac to discuss approaches to resolving the Karabakh conflict, AP and ITAR-TASS reported. France, with the U.S. and Russia, co-chairs the OSCE Minsk Group which has been trying to mediate a settlement of the conflict since 1992. Chirac stressed the need for what he termed "a balanced solution," while Aliev expressed confidence that it will prove possible to resolve the conflict peacefully. Aliev told journalists: "We have discussed several variations, several versions, but we will continue the discussions and we hope to reach a conclusion." Aliev told journalists after the talks that he had criticized last week's vote by the French parliament condemning the 1915 Armenian genocide. Chirac said he understands Baku's negative attitude to that vote, but expressed confidence that it will not negatively impact on bilateral relations. Some Azerbaijani opposition parties have called for the closure of the French embassy in Baku and for France to relinquish its co- chairmanship of the Minsk Group. LF

    [04] UN COORDINATING COUNCIL FOR ABKHAZIA MEETS

    Georgian and Abkhaz government delegations to the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council charged with issues relating to the Abkhaz conflict met in Sukhum on 23 January, ITAR-TASS and Caucasus Press reported. UN Special Envoy Dieter Boden deplored the lack of progress towards either a political settlement of the conflict or the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons to Abkhazia. Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili, however, was quoted as saying progress has been made in repatriating displaced persons. Boden accused the Abkhaz of violating the cease-fire agreement of 28 May 1998 by conducting military exercises in the restricted zone without the consent of UN observers or the CIS peacekeeping force. It is not clear whether he also expressed any criticism of the murder of several Abkhaz police officers earlier this month by Georgian guerrillas under the command of Dato Shengelaia, who was released from detention in Georgia last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 2001). The Abkhaz representatives condemned Shengelaia's release and accused Tbilisi of creating conditions conducive to terrorism and that threaten peace and stability in the region. LF

    [05] GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTRY COMPLAINS OF INADEQUATE FUNDING

    Deputy Interior Minister Zurab Chkhaidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 24 January that his ministry does not receive adequate funding from the state budget, Caucasus Press reported. He said due to last year's budget sequester, the ministry only received the equivalent of $18.8 million, and is unlikely to receive the full 50 million laris ($25 million) allocated for 2000. He said police salaries alone amount to 3 million laris per month, and that staff are owed 12 months' back salaries. LF

    [06] INDEPENDENT PAPER FINED FOR SLANDER IN KAZAKHSTAN

    Bigeldy Gabdullin, editor of the independent newspaper "XXI vek," told RFE/RL's Almaty bureau on 24 January that he had just received a notification of a 13 January ruling of the Almaly District court fining his paper 5 million tenges (about $35,000) for publishing "false materials harming the prestige" of the sugar-refining giant Sakharnyi Tsentr, which is owned by President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law Rakhat Aliev. LF

    [07] U.S. CONDEMNS SENTENCE ON KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN...

    U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Boucher on 24 January condemned the seven-year jail sentence handed down on 22 January to opposition Ar-Namys Party leader and former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov. Boucher said the closed trial "contravened international human rights standards," making it impossible to judge whether the trial was fair. He added that "the charges and proceedings give every appearance of being politically motivated." LF

    [08] ...AS HIS SUPPORTERS, ALLIES VOW PROTESTS

    Emil Aliev, a leading member of Kulov's Ar-Namys Party, told journalists in Bishkek on 24 January that the party intends to hold repeated protests until Kulov is released from prison, Interfax reported. Following Kulov's detention in March 2000, his supporters staged daily pickets in Bishkek until his acquittal in August. Kyrgyz parliament deputy chairman and Socialist Party leader Omurbek Tekebaev, whose unsuccessful bid for the presidency in October 2000 Kulov helped to coordinate, told journalists in Bishkek the same day that the verdict on Kulov constituted "a sort of political reprisal." Tekebaev said he intends to use unspecified "political methods" of exerting pressure on the Kyrgyz leadership to release Kulov, noting that "someone in the upper echelons of power does not want Kyrgyzstan to become 'an island of democracy'" in Central Asia. LF

    [09] NEW JOB CREATION PROGRAM UNVEILED IN KYRGYZSTAN

    Kyrgyzstan's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Bishkek City administration agreed on 24 January to allot 2 million soms (about $40,000) for micro-credits to start small businesses, and an additional 500,000 soms for temporary jobs in the city this year, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Of Kyrgyzstan's 4.9 million population, 54,000 people are officially registered as unemployed, but the National Statistics Agency believes the true figure is 180,000. LF

    [10] TAJIK OFFICIAL SAYS ADMITTING REFUGEES WOULD SPUR DRUG-SMUGGLING, FUNDAMENTALISM

    Interfax on 24 January quoted Tajik Foreign Ministry Information Department Head Igor Sattarov as arguing that allowing some 10,000 Afghan displaced persons to enter Tajikistan would destabilize the internal political and economic situation there. He said the presence of those refugees would contribute to a resurgence of Islamic militancy, facilitate drug-smuggling, and "increase the possibility of using Tajikistan for subversive operations" against neighboring states, meaning Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. He said that international organizations should provide aid for the displaced persons. The UNHCR had formally asked the Tajik government on 22 January to allow the displaced persons, now encamped along the Afghan-Tajik border, to enter Tajikistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 January 2001). LF

    [11] TURKMEN COURT POSTPONES APPEAL AGAINST CONFISCATION OF PENTECOSTAL CHURCH

    The Ashgabat city court on 24 January postponed sine die the hearing of an appeal by Pentecostal pastor Viktor Makrousov against the 4 January confiscation of a private home in the city used for religious services by the city's Pentecostal church, Keston News Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 2001). On 10 January, Turkmen police and members of the city administration raided a meeting of the Protestant church in Ashgabat and warned the two dozen persons attending not to participate in any further "illegal" meetings, Keston News Service reported on 25 January (see also "End Note" below). LF

    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] DJINDJIC CALLS HAGUE CHARGES AGAINST MILOSEVIC 'HEARSAY...'

    Serbian Prime Minister-designate Zoran Djindjic said in Belgrade on 24 January that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's indictment against former President Slobodan Milosevic is "hearsay," "Vesti" reported. Djindjic added that he insists on seeing more concrete evidence from the court. He stressed that he wants Milosevic tried in Serbia, adding that the Serbian authorities have sufficient "compromising evidence" against the former president with regard to atrocities in Kosova. He did not elaborate. Djindjic said that the entire Belgrade leadership is united in its insistence that Milosevic be tried in Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2001). He rejected an appeal by Hague Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that Milosevic be extradited as a "goodwill gesture," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. She, in turn, turned down Djindjic's request that Hague experts come to Belgrade to study the Serbian court system. According to Djindjic, she feels that such a move would be too time-consuming and that time is of the essence in dealing with Milosevic. PM

    [13] DJINDJIC WANTS THREE-YEAR EXTENSION OF YUGOSLAV FEDERATION

    Djindjic also said in Belgrade on 24 January that he wants the federation with Montenegro to be maintained for at least three more years, "Vesti" reported. At the end of that period, the federation could be dissolved if the Montenegrins want (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2001). Djindjic stressed that he is not so much concerned about holding on to Montenegro as about the possible effects that Montenegrin independence would have on Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 January 2001). PM

    [14] COUNCIL OF EUROPE SLAMS SERBIAN STANCE ON MILOSEVIC...

    Speaking in Strasbourg on 24 January, the Council of Europe's Secretary General Walter Schwimmer criticized Belgrade's refusal to extradite Milosevic. "We have offered them many possibilities of assistance, but we are also very clear [about] the conditions for membership, and one of the conditions for membership for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is full cooperation with the international criminal tribunal in The Hague. We made this very clear. I deplore that there were, and I quote their own press statements of the office of Mr. Kostunica, that there were 'deep differences' between President Kostunica and Carla Del Ponte when they met yesterday in Belgrade," RFE/RL quoted Schwimmer as saying. PM

    [15] ... AS DOES WASHINGTON

    State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 24 January that "our position on [the need for a Hague trial for] Milosevic and the other indictees is well known. So we're looking for Yugoslavia to cooperate with the tribunal, as other states in the region are doing and as all the members of the United Nations are obligated to do," AP reported. Observers note that any concession to Belgrade on trying Serbian war criminals in Serbia is likely to trigger a host of similar demands from Croatia and Bosnia for similar treatment. This, in turn, could lead to a collapse of the Hague-based process. PM

    [16] SERBIAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST WANTS MILOSEVIC IN THE HAGUE

    Natasa Kandic, who is widely regarded as Serbia's foremost human rights activist, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 24 January that Milosevic belongs in The Hague. She stressed that this is necessary because his victims include many thousands of people in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova as well as in Serbia. Kandic argued that Serbs can come to grips with their recent past only when those guilty of war crimes are brought before the tribunal. She added that she believes that most of Serbia's new leaders understand that Yugoslavia has an "international obligation" to cooperate with The Hague. PM

    [17] HAGUE COURT TO DEAL WITH POSTWAR KOSOVA?

    Ranko Djinovic, who heads the association of relatives of Serbs missing in Kosova, said in Belgrade on 24 January that Del Ponte told him that she has asked the UN for permission to extend the court's mandate to include postwar crimes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2001). Djinovic added that such a mandate would enable the tribunal to investigate ethnically motivated crimes against Kosova's Serbian minority, AP reported. As several hundred Milosevic supporters jeered Del Ponte and pelted her car with eggs, groups of Serbs from Kosova prevented Milosevic supporters from displaying a large portrait of the former dictator. Milosevic began his political career by encouraging nationalist sentiments among the Serbs in Kosova and later in Croatia and Bosnia, only to abandon those people later. PM

    [18] KOSOVA GOVERNOR WANTS PRISONERS SENT HOME FROM SERBIA

    Hans Haekkerup, who is the new chief UN civilian administrator in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 24 January that the 700 Kosovar prisoners being held in Serbian jails should be sent to prisons in Kosova. "We think that those who cannot be released under the amnesty law should be returned to Kosovo. We will then review the cases and release the people who have been held without any legal reason," AP quoted him as saying. He promised that the UN will exercise the highest professional standards in conducting the review. PM

    [19] SERBIAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION SLAMS GOVERNMENT POLICY TOWARD ALBANIANS

    The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia (HOPS) said in its monthly statement that there is no difference between the policy of the current government toward the ethnic Albanians in southwest Serbia and that of Milosevic. HOPS argued that the Albanians are poorly represented in local government bodies and that Albanian-language media "do not exist" there, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 January. PM

    [20] KFOR DETAINS VOA REPORTER, TWO OTHERS

    A KFOR spokesman said in Prishtina on 25 January that peacekeepers detained VOA journalist Linda Karadaku, guerrilla spokesman Shaqir Shaqiri, and a third person for illegally attempting to enter Kosova from the demilitarized zone in the Presevo region, Reuters reported. The three tried to cross the border via a back road rather than passing through a checkpoint, the KFOR spokesman added. KFOR has moved to cut illegal traffic across the frontier in recent months, but sporadic fighting continues. PM

    [21] MONTENEGRO TO VOTE ON 22 APRIL

    Leaders of the parties represented in the parliament agreed in Podgorica on 24 January to hold early legislative elections on 22 April. The new parliament will then decide whether to hold a referendum on independence, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A poll published by the Center for Human Rights and the Damar agency suggests that 49.8 percent of Montenegrins favor independence while 39.8 percent are opposed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January 2001). The same poll indicates that 46.4 percent of the electorate favor the pro-independence governing coalition, whereas 33.1 percent plan to vote for pro-Belgrade parties. PM

    [22] CROATIA TO STEP UP PROSECUTION OF WAR CRIMINALS

    Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanisevic said in Zagreb on 24 January that the government will set up a special bureau to help speed up the prosecution of war criminals, dpa reported. "The government is not satisfied with the [speed of] prosecution of war criminals so far conducted by the Croatian courts. The new bureau will work within the state prosecutor's office" to that end, he added. PM

    [23] CROATIA BACKS OFF ON ISRAELI MIG MODERNIZATION

    Defense Minister Jozo Rados said in Zagreb on 23 January that Croatia is obliged to cancel a $100 million agreement with Israel to modernize its MiG 21 jets because of a lack of funds, "Jutarnji list" reported. PM

    [24] MACEDONIA LAUNCHES WIRETAP INVESTIGATION

    Public Prosecutor Stavre Djikov has launched an investigation into opposition charges that the government has bugged the conversations of several top political figures, including the current and past presidents, AP reported from Skopje on 24 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). Several journalists and businessmen were also allegedly bugged. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has denied the charges. PM

    [25] ARRESTS IN GRENADE INCIDENT IN MACEDONIA

    Police have arrested three people and issued warrants for several more in conjunction with a recent grenade attack on the police station in the ethnic Albanian village of Tearce, AP reported on 24 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2001). Local Albanian leader Mehi Nesimi warned "the government not to blame the Albanians for everything that is going on." He accused the police of "brutal" behavior in carrying out their investigation. The government denied the charges. PM

    [26] ROMANIAN PREMIER IN BRUSSELS

    Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 25 January met in Brussels with Javier Solana, EU commissioner for foreign policy and security, and will meet later with Guenter Verheugen, the commissioner for EU expansion, Romanian Radio reported. On 24 January, Nastase conferred in Brussels with EU Commission President Romano Prodi, and NATO General Secretary Lord George Robertson. Prodi told the Romanian premier the EU will continue to extend help provided Romania continues its reform course. Robertson said a decision about the further NATO expansion will be taken at the organization's 2002 summit in Prague. Nastase told journalists after the meetings that the problem of Romania's abandoned children has "aggravated" as of late because "some NGOs have used the funds [allocated for this purpose] in money laundering operations." He also complained that "pressure groups" from Romania and abroad "promote the export of children." MS

    [27] ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL ORGANIZATIONS

    President Ion Iliescu told a group of local businessmen from Vrancea county on 24 January that the World Bank, which 30 years ago urged Romania to set up agricultural-industrial enterprises, is now urging Bucharest to liquidate them, but wants to set such enterprises "in a neighbor country"-- a reference to Hungary. Iliescu also said that Romania must find its own specific solutions to its economic problems, because "our interests do not always converge" with global economic developments. "They want us to privatize the entire banking system" and "transform us into beggars" who would ask favors from banks "that are no longer Romanian," the president remarked. Those foreign banks, he said, would "transfer abroad both deposits and the profits created by Romanian economy," thus "serving foreign interests." MS

    [28] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPOINTS NEW OFFICIAL NEWS AGENCY BOSS

    Ioan Mihai Rosca has been appointed new director general of the official Rompres agency, AP reported on 24 January. Rosca's appointment follows the transfer of Rompres to governmental control and the dismissal last week of the agency's former head, Constantin Badea. Rosca is a former communist journalist who was a spokesman for former Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu from 1993 to 1996. MS

    [29] NO ROMANIAN CABINET MINISTER HAS SERVED FORMER SECRET POLICE

    Gheorghe Onisoru, chairman of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives, on 24 January announced that an inquest conducted at Premier Nastase's request found no evidence that any cabinet minister had worked for the former communist secret police or had been an informer for it, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS

    [30] GAGAUZ-YERI STILL CONSIDERING PARTICIPATION IN MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS

    The Popular Assembly of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous republic on 24 January decided not to hold a referendum on changing the denomination of the region parallel with the 25 February Moldovan elections, Flux and Infotag reported. An official of the assembly cited by Infotag explained that referenda must be announced 60 days ahead, and time is too short now for meeting that legal requirement. However, the assembly will still consider whether to allow the elections on the autonomous republic's territory. It also passed a resolution demanding that Gagauz-Yeri be proportionally represented in the Moldovan parliament, government, Constitutional Court and any other governmental structure. The assembly passed a resolution to establish customs controls separate from the Moldovan customs at all entry and exit points on the territory. MS

    [31] MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT AGAINST INITIATIVE TO OUTLAW FASCISTS, NAZI AND COMMUNISTS

    The government on 24 January decided to oppose the legislative initiative of a group of Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) deputies to outlaw fascist, Nazi and communist political parties. The cabinet said Moldova's constitution prohibits the activity of any formation which openly acts against pluralism, a state based on the rule of law, and the country's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. It said the right of association cannot be otherwise restricted and that the activity of parties must be judged according to their deeds and not according to their denomination, Flux reported. The approval of the initiative would have resulted in outlawing the Party of Moldovan Communists, the strongest formation in the outgoing legislature. MS

    [32] TRANSDNIESTER WILL NOT ALLOW MOLDOVAN BALLOT

    Central Electoral Commission (CEC) chairman Dumitru Nedelcu has failed to convince the Tiraspol authorities to allow balloting on 25 February on the territory they control, Flux reported. Transdniester residents wishing to vote will have to travel to the right bank of River Dniester and the authorities in Tiraspol assured Nedelcu they will not hinder them from doing so. Also on 24 January, the CEC rejected the demand of the National Liberal Party to eliminate from the electoral competition the lists of the Party of Revival and Conciliation (PRAM). CEC acknowledged that PRAM leaders had infringed on the rules regulating election broadcasts but said the infringement was not serious enough to warrant the party's disqualification. MS

    [33] FORMER BULGARIAN SECRET POLICE CHIEF CHARGED

    The last chief of the communist Committee on State Security, Dimitar Ivanov, has been charged with destroying Interior Ministry files on surveillance and persecution of regime opponents, AP reported on 24 January. Ivanov, now a businessman and the publisher of the Socialist Party daily "Duma," faces a sentence of up to eight years in prison if found guilty. Interior Ministry officials said some 40 percent of the State Security archive was destroyed when the communists lost their grip on power in 1989. The remainder of the archive was partially opened to the public in 1997, when the parliament approved a bill requiring leading politicians to be screened to determine whether they had worked for the secret police or as its informers. The law also allows individuals to check whether State Security kept files on them. MS

    [34] BULGARIAN PROSECUTOR SAYS POLICE REPEATEDLY INFRINGING SURVEILLANCE LAW

    A Bulgarian prosecutor told journalists on 24 January that police are repeatedly violating the country's surveillance law and are guilty of "multiple and alarming offenses," AP reported. Rosen Dimov said the infringements of the law range from failing to respect the procedure for having surveillance activities approved to the destruction of evidence. The Prosecutor General's Office on 24 January submitted a report to the Higher Judicial Council on surveillance activities. Dimov said that over the last two years, judges have granted permission for police to use surveillance measures in 10,000 instances, but the evidence collected could be used in court in only 1,000 cases. MS

    [35] FORMER BULGARIAN KING TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT?

    Former Bulgarian monarch Simeon II, in an interview with the daily "24 Chasa" on 24 January, refused to rule out the possibility that he would run for president in the elections scheduled for fall this year, AFP reported. Asked whether he could stand in the elections, Simeon replied "That depends on many things. I am a man with a lot of experience, I have thought of everything. Things are different from what one might imagine." The 63-years old former monarch is now paying his eighth visit to the country of his birth and speculation in the media that he is preparing a political comeback has been fueled by a remark made by one of his aides that Simeon may remain in Bulgaria "for a longer time." The daily "Trud" on 24 January said he will stay in Bulgaria at least till the June parliamentary elections. MS

    [36] DISSENTING BULGARIAN CLERGY INVITE POPE TO VISIT

    The splinter group led by Metropolitan Inokentii within the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on 24 January joined the repeated invitation sent to Pope John Paul II to visit Bulgaria, AP reported. Patriarch Maxim, whom the dissenters accuse of collaboration with the communist regime, has refused to invite the pontiff to visit, while the Holy See has said a visit is contingent on invitations from both state and ecclesiastic authorities. MS

    [C] END NOTE

    [37] TURKMENISTAN CRUSHES RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

    By Felix Corley

    Their faith may be the only thing sustaining Christians in Turkmenistan this year, a community which--with the exception of 12 Russian Orthodox parishes - has now been almost completely crushed.

    All other Christian groups there have had their legal status revoked since 1997, when all the country's religious communities were barred from retaining legal status under harsh amendments to the religion law, except for Muslim communities aligned with the Sunni Muslim Board and the Russian Orthodox.

    In 1999 the authorities in the capital Ashgabad spent a week destroying the newly-built Adventist church with bulldozers while Western ambassadors looked on helplessly. To this day a pile of rubble is all that remains. Officials insisted the site was needed for a new road, but it has never been built.

    This month saw a court order the confiscation of Ashgabat's Pentecostal church, a ruling its pastor Viktor Makrousov is now desperately challenging.

    The Turkmen authorities have done nothing to mask their policy of destroying the country's religious minorities, at least from the locals (they have consistently refused to justify their policy to outsiders). When raiding the Ashgabad Baptist church in 1999, one of the Committee for National Security (KNB, formerly KGB) officers openly announced, "First, we'll deport all foreign missionaries, then we'll strangle the remaining Christians in the country."

    During a raid in December 1999 on the home of Vyacheslav Shulgin, a Baptist in Mary, senior lieutenant Davlet Yazykuliev of the Mary KNB told him: "We will hang you." Shulgin and his family escaped this fate: they were instead deported to Russia.

    This past year saw the Turkmen authorities complete their self-imposed task of expelling all foreigners known to have been engaged in religious activity. Hundreds of Iranian Islamic preachers and dozens of Westerners (mainly Protestants) were forced to leave the country, as well as numerous citizens of other CIS states. In August 1999 the Hare Krishna leader Aleksandr Prinkur was expelled to Uzbekistan, while in December of that year Ramil Galimov, a member of a Jehovah's Witness group in Kyzyl-arbat who held dual Russian-Turkmen citizenship, was summarily deported. Six Baptist missionary families were deported between December 1999 and May 2000, mostly to Russia.

    With the expulsions completed, the Turkmen authorities are close to completing their second goal: crushing all religious minority activity. Two believers are known to be serving four-year prison terms for their faith - Shagildy Atakov, a Baptist, and Yazmammed Annamamedov, a Jehovah's Witness. Several Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors are also imprisoned.

    Those isolated believers who remain live in a state of fear. Believers of many faiths have been expelled from their jobs, condemning them to poverty in a country where the state dominates the economy. Four Protestants, led by Pastor Shokhrat Piriev, were detained in November 2000, tortured with electric shocks and beaten. They were freed after being fined one month's average wages and being forced to make over their homes as "gifts to President Niyazov". Piriev's home in a village near Ashgabad was seized on 9 December.

    Officials at all levels - whether in the KNB, the police, local administrations or the Council for Religious Affairs - repeatedly declare that only Islam and Orthodoxy are allowed in the country, despite the fact that nowhere is this stated in law. The Turkmen constitution guarantees religious freedom, and the country has signed a range of human rights conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a member of the OSCE it is also committed to respect human rights.

    Turkmenistan's violations of religious liberty have been carefully documented by a range of institutions, including the Moscow-based human rights group Memorial, Keston Institute based in Oxford, UK, and Amnesty International.

    The world is beginning to take notice. OSCE chairwoman in office Benita Ferrero-Waldner called on President Saparmurat Niyazov to free Atakov when she visited Ashgabad last May, but her appeal fell on deaf ears. In December 2000, Amnesty International chose Atakov as a featured prisoner, while campaigning group Christian Solidarity's Austrian branch also focused on Turkmenistan. The World Evangelical Fellowship has also campaigned on the country. Adventists throughout Russia and Central Asia observed a day of prayer and fasting on 23 December "in response to ongoing persecution of Adventists and other religious groups in Turkmenistan".

    But only pressure from the United States is likely to lead to greater success. Although in September 2000 Turkmenistan escaped being labelled one of the US State Department's "countries of particular concern," the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is urging that Turkmenistan be designated as such. The Commission likens the Niyazov regime to Stalin's.

    Many believe the illusion that the situation in the region is improving should be dispelled. "We look at the year 2000 as the decisive turning-back point - the point at which it should be clear to everyone around the world that these countries are not engaged in democratic transition," declares Cassandra Cavanaugh, a researcher on Central Asia for Human Rights Watch. "They are engaged in a transition to authoritarianism."

    Some say Turkmenistan's move to authoritarianism requires drastic action, such as expulsion from the OSCE. But Gerard Stoudmann, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, argues that expelling any member for failing to meet up to its human rights commitments would not help. "You can't solve these problems by closing the door on a state's ability to participate in the Organization," he reasoned

    For Turkmenistan's religious minorities, this authoritarianism has brought them to the brink of official extinction. Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran and Armenian Christians cannot legally meet. Bahais, Jehovah's Witnesses and Jews are likewise denied the right to meet to practice their faith peacefully.

    Felix Corley is editor of Keston News Service (www.keston.org)

    25-01-01


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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