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Belarusian Jehovah's Witness Charged For Refusing To Join Army

HOMEL, Belarus -- A 23-year-old conscientious objector from the Belarusian city of Homel is standing trial for refusing to join the army, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Dzmitry Smyk, a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, was officially charged on October 8 with avoiding mandatory military service.

He told RFE/RL that his religious faith does not allow him to serve in the military, adding that he would be happy to serve in any other service as an alternative to the military.

"If I became a soldier that would break the oath I gave to almighty God; the Bible does not allow me to be a soldier, but that does not mean that I want to avoid service, I am ready to do anything else," he said in the Homel courtroom.

Smyk insists that according to the Belarusian Constitution he has the right to choose an alternative, noncombatant service.

The trial will continue on October 19.