Turkmenistan: Fined for Having a Bible

Four Protestants in Turkmenistan were arrested and fined in late February after police discovered Bibles in their possession. Although the judge initially refused to hear the case against the four Christians, citing a lack of evidence, she later changed her position and fined them for “violation of the law on religious organizations.”

The Bibles were discovered when police searched a home where three believers were staying with a fourth Christian. During the search, a police officer found a Bible in each of the three visitors’ bags. He confiscated the Bibles and took all four Christians, who asked not to be identified, to the police station.

An official questioned them about their religious activity, shouted at them and accused them of bringing “illegal” religious literature into the city. He also threatened to have drugs planted on them. “Then you’ll be in another charge,” he warned.

The believers were taken to a detention facility, where they were locked in a room holding 17 prisoners but designed for only four. After an hour in the cell, the Christians were taken before a judge. She refused to hear the case, saying police had presented no proof of wrongdoing, so police let them go after warning them not to leave the city.

One week later, the believers were summoned to the court again for a trial before the same judge. “Perhaps there had been pressure on the judge to force her to change her stance,” said a believer familiar with the case. The four were found guilty of violating the law on religious organizations and fined the equivalent of $125. Though they felt they had done nothing wrong, the four reluctantly paid their fines. Refusal to pay could have resulted in a 15-day prison sentence. According to Forum 18 News, the Christians’ Bibles were never returned to them.

Source: Forum 18 News Service, Voice of the Martyrs

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