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Belarusian Court Acquits Conscientous Objector

Yan Mihailau has offered to complete alterative civil service
Yan Mihailau has offered to complete alterative civil service
MINSK -- A Minsk court has acquitted a Belarusian man who refused mandatory military service on religious grounds, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Yan Mihailau, 21, said that his membership in the Jewish Messianic movement means he cannot serve in the army, but is ready to serve an alternative civil service if Belarusian authorities offer him one.

In mid-December, Mihailau was sentenced to three months in jail for avoiding military service. He had almost finished his jail term when a Minsk Oblast court overruled the verdict against him and sent the case for further investigation.

On March 10, Mihailau was freed from jail and asked not to leave the city until the additional investigation of his case was finished.

Mihailau told RFE/RL that today's court decision is a good sign for other young men in Belarus who cannot perform military service because of their religious beliefs.

Mikhal Pashkevich, coordinator of the For Alternative Civil Service campaign, told RFE/RL that Mihailau's acquittal is an important precedent that provides hope that Belarus will adopt a law on alternative civil service in the near future.

He said at least 25 men are scheduled to be tried soon in Minsk for evading military service.