A 19-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector to compulsory military service yesterday (15 October) lodged an appeal against his imprisonment, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Fakhraddin Mirzayev was given a one-year prison sentence on 25 September by a court in Azerbaijan's second city Gyanja [Gäncä]. "This is the first criminal prosecution of a Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector in Azerbaijan since Farid Mammedov was imprisoned in September 2010," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "Others have been investigated, but their cases were never referred to court."
Azerbaijan committed itself to introduce an Alternative Service law by January 2003 when it entered the Council of Europe in 2001, but failed to do so.
Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 there was a "wave of call-ups" of their young men in the latest conscription round, numbering under twenty. Asked if the young men fear being prosecuted and possibly imprisoned as a result of their refusal to conduct compulsory military service, one Jehovah's Witness responded: "I'm not sure they're afraid – it's just a reality. They are aware of this when they become Jehovah's Witnesses. They are not afraid just because they are following their consciences."
In one recent case, Jehovah's Witness Amid Zohrabov, from Lokbatan near the capital Baku, was forcibly conscripted into the army on 23 July and transported to a military unit in Gazakh Region in north-west Azerbaijan. However, after his parents wrote a complaint to the unit's commanding officer, he was freed on 7 August and allowed to return home (see F18News 10 August 2012 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1730).