DAGESTAN, Russia - The murder by a mob of a Seventh-day Adventist couple here was not linked to their religion, according to an article posted March 14 by the Adventist News Network of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

According to the article, Gadzhimurat Gadzhiyev, 31, and his wife, Tatyana, were accused of kidnapping and killing Shakhvazat Omarova, a 12-year-old girl.

Mr. Gadzhiyev, who became an SDA while serving a prison sentence, was placed on a list of suspects to be investigated.

However, his guilt was never proved through formal investigation or trial, the article stated.

He was accused by a member of the girl's family, and he and his wife were condemned to die and reportedly burned alive in a public square in Buinaksk, a town in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim independent republic in the Caucasus Mountains.

The article quotes Seventh-day Adventist pastor Valery Ahmedov from Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, as saying that "our members are under the influence of the tragedy.

The Gadzhiyevs were active members of our small eight-member Seventh-day Adventist group. The local-church members feel strongly that Mr. Gadzhiyev and his wife, Tatyana, who also became a Seventh-day Adventist after Mr. Gadzhiyev was baptized, are not guilty of the alleged crime for which they have been punished."

Rumors circulated

Originally, rumors speculated on religious persecution of Seventh-day Adventist members in Dagestan itself, as well as in the city of Rostov-on-Don, 500 miles away, in which a series of public evangelistic meetings was to begin March 9.

In Dagestan are about 100 SDA members who worship in small church groups throughout this independent republic.

Pastor Lee Huff, president of the Euro-Asia Division of the SDAs, headquartered in Moscow, said that as of March 8 the situation surrounding the tragedy in Dagestan seems to be calm.

He said Seventh-day Adventists attended church in Makhachkala and in six congregations in Rostov-on-Don and experienced no problems.

The article stated that the church's division personnel, as well as church leaders in Makhachkala, were assured by government officials that they were aware that the church was not involved in the situation and that it is not viewed as a religious-liberty issue.

Cooperative leader

The article quoted the Muslim leader in Dagestan as stating that he would do "everything possible not to link this event" with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

It also stated that police and government officials do not link the church in any way to the girl's murder, and there is no direct evidence about Mr. Gadzhiyev's role in the girl's death.

The article said action had been brought against those accused of killing Mr. and Mrs. Gadzhiyev.

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