Turkmenistan: Protestant Pastor's Trial Set for October

Sunday, October 24, 2010

By Joseph C. DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

MARY, TURKMENISTAN (Worthy News)-- Protestant Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev's trial is slated for Oct. 21, nearly two months after his arrest on charges of large-scale swindling.

The indictment alleges that under Article 228, Part 2 of the Criminal Code, Pastor Nurliev extracted money from five church members: two women -- who testified against him in writing -- and three men who gave verbal testimony.

Carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison and confiscation of personal property, Nurliev's wife Maya along with other congregants deny the charges and claim that his accusors are not even fellow church members.

"Up to 20 church members will try to attend," said Maya Nurlieva. "All are ready to speak up to defend my husband."

Maya said the indictment against her husband also accused him of being a drug addict in need of treatment, but she said her husband hasn't done drugs since his conversion to Christianity back in 1999.

A 45-year-old grandfather of two, Pastor Nurliev led the Light to the World Pentecostal Church in Mary, which was repeatedly denied registration since 2007, the same year he was placed on the country's exit blacklist.

The blacklist is part of the Turkmen government's long-standing policy of isolating religious communities within the country from fellow believers abroad.