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War resisters' International, 12 July 2007


TURKMENISTAN: Two conscientious objectors arrested

On 14 June 2007, two Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors, Bayram Ashirgeldiev (TKM14925) and Nuryagdy Gairov (TKM14926) were detained in Turkmenistan, and have been charged with "evasion of call-up to military service" according to article 219 part 1 of the Criminal Code of Turkmenistan. Both are now believed to be held in pre-trial detention in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat. According to reports received by Amnesty International, they have not been able to meet with their lawyers, and their family members have not been able to visit them. Amnesty reports that the men are kept in one cell with 20-30 other detainees, and that the cell lacks ventilation and is extremely hot during the day.
According to Amnesty International, Nuryagdy Gairov had already previously served a prison sentence to punish him for his conscientious objection to military service. He was detained in December 1999 and sentenced in January 2000 to a year’s imprisonment (see also Prisoners for Peace 2000).

Although he was included in a prisoners’ amnesty in April 2000 which made him eligible for early release, he was not released because he refused - for religious reasons - to swear an oath of allegiance to the President, which was required from all prisoners who were included in this and other prisoners’ amnesties. To punish him for refusing to swear the oath he was reportedly put in an isolation cell and beaten so severely that he fell unconscious. He was released in November 2000.

Turkmenistan does not recognise the right to conscientious objection. Conscientious objectors, mostly members of the Jehovah's Witnesses and similar religious groups, face several years' imprisonment under criminal law and often serve their sentences in labour colonies under harsh conditions. In a lot of cases, release has been denied if the prisoners refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the president on grounds of conscience.

War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the Turkmen president:

President of Turkmenistan
Apparat Prezidenta
744000 Ashgabat
Fax: +993 12 355112

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of Bayram Ashirgeldiev, Nuryagdy Gairov, and all other imprisoned conscientious objectors.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International