Protest against Conscientious Objector's Sentence

Turkey's Human Rights Association says a 25 month prison sentence passed by a military court against conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan is "wrongful and unacceptable," calling to stop repression of those objecting war.

BIA News Center 16 October 2006    
BİA (Istanbul) - The Human Rights Association (IHD) Istanbul Branch Conscientious Objection Commission has described as “wrongful and unacceptable” a recent military prison sentence passed on one of the country’s leading conscientious objectors.

Mehmet Tarhan was sentenced by the Sivas Military Tribunal to 25 months imprisonment in total on two counts of charges that were heard for the same offence on October 10.

“This verdict has once again violated human rights and freedoms” said the IHD Commissions Halil Savda, also a conscientious objector, noting that Tarhan had been accused twice for the same offence and that his final sentence was a combination of both verdicts.

According to Tarhan’s attorney Suna Coskun, he was sentenced for refusing to do his compulsory military service but the charges leveled against him were based on two consequent objections dated April 10, 2005 and June 10, 2006.

The Sivas military court sentenced Tarhan to 1 year imprisonment due to the first act which was later reduced to 10 months for mitigating circumstances and then sentenced him to an additional 18 months imprisonment for his second act which too was reduced to 15 months in total.

Coskun said they had appealed the verdict the very day it was passed and recalled that a separate case had been filed by them on behalf of Tarhan claiming human rights violations where prison personnel were on trial. That trial, she said, has been postponed to November 8, 2006 because of a change in the judge.

Reiterating IHD’s ongoing support for Tarhan, the association’s Savda read a statement issued by the Istanbul commission which said “this verdict is totally linked to a military mentality argument. It is beyond doubt that a decision taken by a military officer who has no clue of justice cannot be legal”.

The statement said Tarhan’s trial at a military tribunal despite him being civilian was itself a violation of the constitution and international conventions and called on the state “to end treating conscientious objectors as if they are soldiers disobeying orders”.

The Conscientious Objection Commission has a list of requests that include:

* Objection to compulsory armed service, to fight and be trained to kill or be killed should not be punished.

* Conscientious Objection should be accepted as a human right.

* The treatment of Conscientious Objectors as deserters and the vicious cycle between barracks and prison should come to an end with required legislation.

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