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Dzmitry Smyk after his acquittal
The central court in the Belarusian city of Homel has acquitted a Jehovah's Witness who had been charged with avoiding mandatory military service, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Dzmitry Smyk said that his belief did not allow him to bear arms. Judge Alena Tsalkova ruled that "Smyk's actions do not constitute a crime."

Smyk told RFE/RL after he left the courtroom a free man that he felt happy that justice had prevailed.

The Homel prosecutor has 10 days in which to file a motion against the court's decision.

Viktar Adzinochanka, who is a lecturer at Skaryna Religious University and a representative of the Christian Association in Belarus, told RFE/RL that the Belarusian authorities recently adopted a more realistic attitude toward Jehovah's Witnesses.

In Belarus, every male between the age of 18 and 27 has to serve in the army for two years.
A doctor examines recruits at a local conscription center in Novosibirsk.
Rights activists in Russia have raised fresh concerns over the treatment of conscripts in the army, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Sergei Sorokin of the Moscow Helsinki Group told RFE/RL that a graduate of Moscow State University's (MGU) postgraduate program was forcibly inducted into the army today.

Sorokin said MGU graduate Roman Palvelyev, 25, came to Moscow's Cheremushki district military commission office to obtain a copy of its ruling on his case. Sorokin said Palvelyev was forced to go to the draft center and that his mother was not permitted to see him.

Meanwhile, the Baikal human rights center in West Siberia issued a statement by the parents of a young conscript who died just five days after he was drafted into the Russian Army.

Albert Kiyamov was a young physicist who was called up for military service after he completed his Ph.D dissertation in the city of Ulyanovsk earlier this month. The commanders of Kiyamov's military unit say he fell out of a window and died.

Kiyamov's parents say they do not believe that and have demanded a full and transparent investigation into their son's death.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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