Turkmenistan: Second conscientious objector jailing in 2019

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The 23-year-old Jehovah's Witness Muhammetali Saparmyradov was jailed for one year in March for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. He has joined 11 other jailed conscientious objectors in the labour camp in Seydi. Labour camp officials refused to discuss their prison conditions with Forum 18.

Another conscientious objector to Turkmenistan's compulsory military service has been jailed. A court in the south-eastern town of Bayramaly sentenced 23-year-old Muhammetali Saparmyradov to one year's imprisonment in March. He has since joined 11 other jailed conscientious objectors in the labour camp in Seydi in eastern Turkmenistan. All are Jehovah's Witnesses.

Saparmyradov is the second Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector known to have been jailed so far in 2019. Eleven are known to have been jailed in 2018, 10 of whom are still serving their sentences (see below).

The 12 Jehovah's Witnesses imprisoned for their conscientious objection to military service - all aged between 18 and 25 – are serving one or two year jail terms (see full list below)

Turkmenistan offers no alternative service for those unable to perform compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. The United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have repeatedly called for the government to introduce such an alternative (see below).

Turkmenistan has ignored 11 United Nations Human Rights Committee Decisions – the most recent published in April - that jailing conscientious objectors violated their rights. It also ignored another Decision published in April that the rights of two Jehovah's Witnesses jailed on fabricated pornography charges were violated (see below).

Conscientious objector jailed in Bayramaly

Muhammetali Charygeldiyevich Saparmyradov (born 11 November 1995) is a Jehovah's Witness from Bayramaly in Mary Region, east of the capital Ashgabad. He refused his regular call-up to compulsory military service.

Prosecutors then brought a case against Saparmyradov under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1 ("Rejecting call-up to military service"). They handed his case to Bayramaly City Court. At his trial on 19 March, the Judge sentenced him to one year's ordinary regime labour camp, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.

As Saparmyradov had not been held in pre-trial detention, he was arrested immediately after the court hearing.

Saparmyradov and his mother decided not to appeal against his conviction, Jehovah's Witnesses added.

The authorities then transferred Saparmyradov to serve his sentence at the ordinary regime labour camp in the desert near Seydi, in Lebap Region. (The prison now seems to use the designation LB-E/12, not LB-K/12.) Many other prisoners of conscience jailed to punish them for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief have been held in the camp, where torture is said to be routine and prisoners are denied their freedom of religion and belief and other rights.

The address of the Seydi Labour Camp is:

746222 Lebap velayat
Seydi
uchr. LB-E/12
Turkmenistan

Saparmyradov was the second conscientious objector known to have been jailed in 2019. The first, Azamatjan Narkulyev, was given a one-year jail term on 7 January.

No conscientious objection, no alternative service

In defiance of repeated calls by the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Turkmenistan offers no alternative to its compulsory military service. Military service for men between the ages of 18 and 27 is generally two years. Call-up is decreed each spring and autumn.

Young men who refuse military service on grounds of conscience face prosecution under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1. This punishes refusal to serve in the armed forces in peacetime with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or two years' corrective labour.

From 2014, courts punished conscientious objectors with corrective labour or suspended prison terms, rather than imprisonment. However, jailings resumed with two prison terms in January 2018.

List of known jailed conscientious objectors

Twelve conscientious objectors to compulsory military service (listed below) – all of them Jehovah's Witnesses – are known to be serving prison sentences under Criminal Code Article 219, Part 1 ("Rejecting call-up to military service"):

1) Mekan Orazdurdiyevich Annayev; born 22 June 1999; sentenced 26 June 2018 Turkmenbashi City Court; no appeal to Balkan Region Court; two year ordinary regime labour camp.

2) Ikhlosbek Valijon oglu Rozmetov; born 26 November 1997; sentenced 11 July 2018 Gurbansoltan eje District Court; appeal rejected 23 July 2018 Dashoguz Regional Court; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

3) Veniamin Muslimovich Genjiyev; born 12 May 2000; sentenced 17 July 2018 Danew District Court; no appeal to Lebap Regional Court; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

4) Maksat Jumadurdiyevich Jumadurdiyev; born 15 May 2000; sentenced 17 July 2018 Danew District Court; no appeal to Lebap Regional Court; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

5) Isa Muslimovich Sayayev; born 14 May 1994; sentenced 9 August 2018 Koneurgench City Court; appeal rejected 11 September 2018 Dashoguz Regional Court; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

6) Ruslan Khadynyaz oglu Artykmuradov; born 24 May 2000; sentenced 13 August 2018 Sayat District Court; appeal rejected 11 September 2018 Lebap Regional Court; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

7) Sokhbet Rejepmyradovich Agamyradov; born 4 January 2000; sentenced 27 August 2018 Mary City Court; appeal lodged to Mary Regional Court but city court refuses to hand it on; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

8) Serdar Annamyradovich Atayev; born 9 June 2000; sentenced 28 August 2018 Mary City Court; appeal lodged to Mary Regional Court but city court refuses to hand it on; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

9) Gurbangylych Dovletovich Muhammetgulyyev; born 15 March 2000; sentenced 28 November 2018 Mary City Court; no appeal to Mary Regional Court; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

10) Eziz Dovletmuradovich Atabayev; born 15 March 1998; sentenced 19 December 2018 Dashoguz City Court; appeal rejected 15 January 2019 Dashoguz Regional Court; two year ordinary regime labour camp.

11) Azamatjan Narkulyevich Narkulyev; born 9 November 2000; sentenced 7 January 2019 Danew District Court; no appeal to Lebap Regional Court; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

12) Muhammetali Charygeldiyevich Saparmyradov; born 11 November 1995; sentenced 19 March 2019 Bayramaly City Court; no appeal to Mary Regional Court; one year ordinary regime labour camp.

Author information

Felix Corley, Forum 18. This is the shortened version of an article first published on Forum 18 on 3rd June 2019.

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About the authors

Felix Corley, Forum 18. This is the shortened version of an article first published on Forum 18 on 3rd June 2019.