Amnesty urges Turkmenistan to revoke sentences
Date 2007/7/30 17:22:00 | Topic: News
|Amnesty International urged Turkmenistan to revoke suspended sentences handed down to three Jehovah's Witnesses accused of refusing to serve in the army on religious grounds.|
Amnesty said Nuryagdy Gairov, previously jailed for 18 months, was released after a court changed its sentence to a one-year suspended sentence. Two other Jehovah's Witness members were given two-year suspended sentences, it said.
"Amnesty International calls for the suspended sentences handed down to conscientious objectors ... to be revoked," the organisation said in a statement late on Thursday.
Justice officials in the tightly run Central Asian state were unavailable for comment.
Amnesty called on the authorities "to introduce legislation to ensure that a civilian alternative of non-punitive length is available to all those whose conscientiously held beliefs preclude them from performing military service."
It added that a fourth Jehovah's Witness, also accused of "evasion of call-up to military service", will stand trial on Aug. 3 facing up to two years' imprisonment.
Turkmenistan, a former Soviet desert nation bordering Iran, was criticised for cracking down on dissent and religious freedom under the 21-year rule of Saparmurat Niyazov who died in December of a heart attack.
The new leader, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has taken steps to soften some of Niyazov's policies and dismantle elements of a personality cult that surrounded his predecessor. But the nation remains tightly controlled and isolated.
July 27, 2007