Kyrgyzstan: Confidential files, "illegal" worship and expulsions


06/21/2008 - Demands by Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service (NSS) secret police to see confidential files on individual students at Bishkek's Protestant United Theological Seminary seem to have been the catalyst for the expulsion in June of its rector, New Zealander Edward Sands, reports Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service.

"I have always regarded these as confidential and told them that," Sands told Forum 18 News Service. "But they were very angry." The NSS also objected that two Protestant churches used the seminary buildings for worship without permission.
It forced Pastor Alastair Morrice of the International Church to leave Kyrgyzstan a few days before he intended. Bakit Osmanov, the NSS officer who handles religious affairs, refused to talk to Forum 18 about the expulsions or why his agency was demanding to see confidential student files. The Islamic University insists it functions freely, but told Forum 18 it has to inform the Muftiate, the State Agency for Religious Affairs and the district police about who is studying there.