Prison sentences indicate Turkmenistan is halting progress
BALKANABAD, Turkmenistan—An appeals court in Turkmenistan has decided to imprison two conscientious objectors who had received two-year conditional sentences in November 2008. The young men thus became the first conscientious objectors incarcerated for their convictions since the 2005 amnesty was granted to all imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Turkmenbashi regime.
For unknown reasons, six months into their conditional sentence, fleshly brothers Sahetmyrat and Muhammetmyrat Annamammedov were called to the draft office on May 21, 2009, and asked if they still maintained the conscientious objection to military service. Since they had not changed their position, they were immediately brought before a trial judge who changed the conditional sentence to a two-year prison term. Both were denied legal representation and their father was not allowed into the courtroom. On appeal, Judge Ahmed Agoyliyev of the Nebit-Dag (Balkanabad Region) upheld the trial judge’s decision. The judge had postponed the appeal trial for a week to allow their father to get an advocate to represent them in the case. The father could not find an advocate for his sons, and so on June 30, 2009, he represented them in the court himself.
In the past, disturbing reports surfaced about inhumane conditions in Turkmenistan prisons. It was hoped that the current government would not subject prisoners of conscience to prison sentences but instead would recognize them as conscientious objectors and protect their freedom. Turkmenistan does not provide alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors.
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