CYPRUS: Turkish Cypriot conscientious objector sent to prison

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Turkish Cypriot conscientious objector, Halil Karapasaoglu was sent to prison on Tuesday for not paying a 2000 TL (EUR 360) fine imposed by a military court in the north for refusing to do reservist duties.

Karapasaoglu was given 10 days to pay or spend three weeks in prison, he chose the latter.

He was arrested on Tuesday morning after receiving a phone call from Turkish Cypriot police officers. Reportedly, the conscientious objector told the officers that he would welcome them into his home where he was awaiting them.

The conscientious objector refused to serve in the Turkish army as a reservist in Cyprus from 2014-2017.

Karapasaoglu’s defiance raised public awareness and a reaction from parties, even those participating in the Turkish Cypriot ruling coalition. The Turkish Cypriot assembly backs legislation which would allow conscientious objectors alternatives to completing their military service and reservist duties.

Legislation is expected to be passed sometime in March, with calls for a pardon to be given to Karapasaoglu, as a few months from now refusing to serve in the military on the grounds of conscientious objection will not be a crime in the north.

Speaking to Turkish Cypriot reporters Murat Kanatli spokesman for the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus called  Karapasaoglu’s arrest a "wound for justice," saying that “Halil is a hostage of Turkey”.

Kanatli, a conscientious objector himself, said that if the proposed legislation is not voted in then many others are to follow. He added that his and other cases have been presented before the European Court of Human Rights.

Karapasaoglu was transferred to the central prison facility in the north where the Initiative for Conscientious Objection in Cyprus had called for a demonstration against his imprisonment.

Karapasaoglu refused to answer reservist calls claiming that he is a pacifist and that his anti-militarist ideas are in conflict with the notion of army service.

“They are prosecuting me because I refuse to hold a gun, I refuse to fire a bullet at my (Greek Cypriot) friend Antonis. They say they will send me to prison for 20 days. This is unacceptable, it is an inhumane practice,” said Karapasaoglu.

He found support from key figures in Turkish Cypriot society such as the Mayor of the Turkish Municipality of Nicosia and union leaders such as Ali Kismir and Serkan Soyalan.

“We see Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots as one people and as such we refuse to hold a gun against our own people,” said Kismir.