A court in Turkmenistan has sentenced a Jehovah’s Witness to one year in prison for his objection to military service.
A spokesman for the religious group, Jarrod Lopes, told RFE/RL on September 8 that the Vekilbazar District Court in the southeastern region of Mary on September 3 found 18-year-old Myrat Orazgeldyev guilty of avoiding mandatory military service.
According to the group, Turkmen authorities have imprisoned 25 Jehovah’s Witnesses for their conscientious objection to military service, of whom 11 are currently in prison.
“It is a shame that Turkmenistan continues to mistreat peaceful young Christian men. Young Christians like Myrat would be happy to perform alternative service. Instead, they are thrown into prison, where they are stripped of the opportunity to support the families and community they love,” Lopes said in a statement.
Lopes also cited Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch, as urging Turkmen authorities to “immediately free” Myrat Orazgeldyev “and vacate the criminal case against him.”
“Turkmenistan should, in line with recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, offer alternative civilian service to people who, for reasons of conscience, cannot serve in the military. The authorities should also release the other Jehovah’s Witnesses in custody for exercising their right to freedom of conscience,” Denber was cited.
Turkmenistan’s laws oblige all men between 18-27 years of age to serve in the armed forces for two years. Failing to serve is punishable by up to two years in prison.
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