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Jehovah's Witness Karen Harutyunyan has been sentenced in the unrecognised
entity of Nagorno-Karabakh to 30 months' imprisonment, for refusing
compulsory military service. Even before his trial, he had been transferred
to the prison in the hilltop town of Shusha where he will serve his
sentence, Forum 18 News Service has learned. The entity's latest prisoner
of conscience, who refused military service because of his religious
beliefs, is intending to appeal against the sentence. However, the entity's
Human Rights Ombudsperson Yuri Hairapetyan insisted Harutyunyan broke the
law, and doubted that anyone could refuse the entity's compulsory military
service. He asked Forum 18: "How can this be justified? Maybe he's not even
a Jehovah's Witness." Ashot Sargsyan, Head of the government's Department
for Ethnic Minority and Religious Affairs, described the jail sentence as
"absurd" because he claimed it is too mild. He has called for the Criminal
Code to be changed to make anyone refusing military service pay a massive
fine and do some form of alternative service. Harutyunyan's imprisonment
comes as revisions to the Religion Law are being prepared, which could make
the restrictive Law even harsher.
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