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Turkish Cypriot conscientious objector fined, to go to jail on Tuesday

Mustafa Hurben, conscientious objector
Turkish Cypriot conscientious objector Mustafa Hurben (Left)

Turkish Cypriot conscientious objector Mustafa Hurben was handed an 800TL (€24) fine on Thursday for refusing to complete his military service and will be jailed next Tuesday after refusing to pay the fine.

It had been widely expected, including by Hurben himself, that he would face a harsher punishment for his refusal to take part in military activities, but the military court in Nicosia instead decided to hand down a small fine.

However, speaking to the Cyprus Mail after the court’s ruling, Hurben confirmed that he would also refuse to pay the fine – an act which will incur a three-day jail sentence.

“I do not see what I did as a crime, so I do not accept that I have to pay,” he said, adding that he “cannot dodge jail” as a last resort, and therefore accepts that he will spend three days next week behind bars.

The concept of conscientious objection to military service is not currently recognised in the north’s laws, and as a result, the refusal to complete military service is automatically considered a criminal act.

In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, Hurben said said “today’s decision means that both the court and the prosecutor’s office understand something is wrong” with the fact that conscientious objection is currently illegal.

He also called on the north’s ‘parliament’ to take action, saying “I hope an initiative to change the law will be launched soon.”

Activist Mustafa Kanatli of the Conscientious Objection Initiative concurred, saying outside court that “the ball is entirely in parliament’s court. Parliament is continuing to violate the freedoms of thought and conscience.”

“We hope parliament will take a serious initiative and no other conscientious objectors will go to prison,” he said.

A bill which would have legalised conscientious objection in the north was rejected by a majority vote in ‘parliament’ on January 8.

The bill had been put forward by opposition party the CTP and would have allowed Turkish Cypriot males to perform duties in the civil service and other public sector organisations should they not wish to enter the military.

However, it was voted down by ‘MPs’ from the three parties of ‘government’, who pointed to military activity in the Republic as the primary reason behind their rejection of the bill.

“It is not possible for us to be in a situation which opens the door to conscientious objection,” ‘MP’ Sunat Atun said, speaking on behalf of the ‘government’.

“We are currently in a state of ceasefire, and we know the priests on the other side are receiving weapons training. Everything is based on militarism and increasing military power in South Cyprus. They are increasing arms purchases,” he said.

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