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TURKMENISTAN: Eleven religious prisoners of conscience in one camp


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TURKMENISTAN: Eleven religious prisoners of conscience in one camp

By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

The arrival at the Seydi Labour Camp in eastern Turkmenistan of Sunet Japbarov and Dovran Matyakubov, Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors, brought to eleven the number of religious prisoners of conscience held in this camp, Forum 18 News Service notes. Ten are conscientious objectors. Japbarov and Matyakubov each received 18-month prison terms in December 2010 for refusing compulsory military service. Concern is mounting among his friends for another of the religious prisoners in the Seydi Camp, Protestant Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev. The Labour Camp administration has refused to allow him medical treatment for his diabetes, for which he regularly visited a hospital before his August 2010 arrest. "Our first aim is restoring his health," his friends told Forum 18. Police who summoned members of his unregistered congregation warned: "if we find out the church has been meeting, we'll do the same to you as we did to Ilmurad".

Two young Jehovah's Witnesses have been transferred to the prison camp at Seydi in eastern Turkmenistan after being sentenced for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of religious conscience, Jehovah's Witnesses have told Forum 18 News Service. Sunet Japbarov and Dovran Matyakubov were sentenced in December 2010. They joined nine other religious prisoners of conscience already in the same Seydi Labour Camp: eight Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors; and one Protestant pastor, Ilmurad Nurliev. However, another Jehovah's Witness facing criminal trial for refusing military service had the case dropped on health grounds.

Jehovah's Witness young men have repeatedly expressed a readiness to perform an alternative, civilian service not under military control.

Conscientious objection to military service a crime

Turkmenistan currently has no alternative service, and those who cannot perform military service on grounds of conscience are prosecuted under Article 219 Part 1 of the Criminal Code. This punishes refusal to serve in the armed forces in peacetime with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment.

International bodies have repeatedly called on the Turkmen government to introduce an alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors. Most recently, such a call was included in a highly-critical legal review of the current Religion Law by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), completed in June 2010 but not made public until the following December (see F18News 20 December 2010

(http://www.legislationline.org/documents/id/16060).

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