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Forum18 – Two months after a court in the unrecognised republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus gave Baptist conscript Gagik Mirzoyan a suspended sentence for refusing to swear the military oath or bear arms because of his religious convictions, a court has increased the penalty at the urging of military leaders. The district court of Hadrut in south-eastern Karabakh sentenced Mirzoyan today (5 September) to one year’s imprisonment. “This is bad news,” Albert Voskanyan, director of the Centre for Civilian Initiatives, told Forum 18 News Service from Karabakh’s capital Stepanakert. “Mirzoyan is likely to be brought here to Stepanakert in the next few days and then, it seems, to the prison in Shushi.”

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“We were there in court with Gagik’s family today,” a fellow-Baptist told Forum 18 from Stepanakert on 5 September. “Gagik looked well, but he was much thinner, perhaps because of all the worry over the past few months.” The Baptist reported that the court told Mirzoyan that if he declared then and there he would swear the oath it would free him and send him back to his unit. “Gagik responded that he couldn’t do so as the Bible doesn’t allow it. He was sentenced and police took him away immediately.” The Baptist, who preferred not to be named, insisted that Mirzoyan is prepared to conduct an alternative service. “He’s ready to serve even in a dangerous position, such as in a frontline medical unit, as long as it is without weapons and without swearing the oath,” the Baptist told Forum 18. “He believes this would be a witness for others to his faith.”…[Go To Full Story]