Ashgabat (AsiaNews) – In the last three months five Jehovah Witnesses have been sentenced for having refused to do military service. In the meantime the Baptist Pastor Vyacheslav Kalataevsky remains in prison and his family have difficulty in seeing him.
September 12 Begench Shakhmuradov was condemned to 2 years in prison with a suspended sentence, the maximum penalty for refusing military service. He had already been condemned for the same reason in February 2005, but freed in April under a Presidential amnesty. He contracted tuberculosis in prison which was the reason he refused the call to military service in May 2007.
Shakhmuradov told Forum 18 News Service “I believe I have the right to freedom of thought and religion and the court should have respected this”. “I told the Court that I was ready to do any other type of service”.
Meanwhile, fellow Jehovah's Witness Suleiman Udaev had his 18-month term of imprisonment for refusing military service on grounds of religious conscience commuted to a two-year suspended sentence with compulsory labour, and 20% of his salary will go to the State. A further three Witnesses were condemned for refusing military service, with suspended sentences.
Meanwhile, Baptist pastor Kalataevsky remains in a labour camp. The Baptist leader from the Caspian port city of Turkmenbashi was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for illegally crossing the border six years earlier, but his wife says that the sentence was imposed to punish him for his activity with the unregistered Baptist congregation in Turkmenbashi. Now his family’s hopes lie in an amnesty due in October to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The government has said that more than 9,000 prisoners are due to benefit from the amnesty this year.