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Turkmenistan: All imprisoned conscientious objectors released

Forum 18 News Service reported on 22 April that all four imprisoned conscientious objectors had been released in mid-April following a presidential decree. All four known Jehovah's Witness prisoners - Begench Shakhmuradov, Atamurat Suvkhanov, Mansur Masharipov and Vepa Tuvakov – were freed last weekend in the wake of a surprise presidential decree and are now back at home with their families, Jehovah's Witnesses have told Forum 18. The four were all named in the 16 April decree, though significantly the decree did not reveal that all four had been sentenced for rejecting compulsory military service on grounds of religious conscience.

Three of the four had been sentenced by Dashoguz court - Masharipov on 28 May 2004, Tuvakov on 3 July 2004 and Suvkhanov on 17 December 2004 - while Shakhmuradov had been sentenced by Azatlyk court in Ashgabad on 10 February 2005. All were sentenced under Article 219 of the Criminal Code, which punishes refusal to serve in the armed forces. Turkmenistan offers no non-combat alternative to those who cannot serve in the military on grounds of conscience.

Source: Forum 18 News Service, 22 April 2005

Veröffentlicht in CO-Update, May 2005, No. 9