Believer Ivan Mikhailau acquitted
On 4 May in the morning the Minsk District Court announced the verdict on the criminal case instigated against Ivan Mikhailau, who allegedly evaded from military service. Judge Viachaslau Tupeika acquitted Mikhailau, who had been previously sentenced to 3 months of jail for evading from military service.
At the previous court sitting, on 28 April, prosecutor Pastukhova considered that the guy had violated Article 435 of the Criminal Code and demanded to punish him with 7 million rubles (about $2,365).
Bear in mind that 21-year old Ivan Mikhailau, a member of the New Covenant congregation, was drafted into the army in December 2008, but refused to serve. He told the Minsk district military enlistment office that that military service contradicts his religious beliefs and demanded to be assigned to an alternative service in line with Article 57 of the Constitution. He was denied as there is no alternative service in Belarus.
Amnesty International recognized Ivan Mikhailau prisoner of conscience.
Human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich said that he is quite satisfied with the verdict, as it corresponds to the spirit of the appropriate Ruling of the Constitutional Court, issued in 2000, and the Constitution, which guarantees the right of each person to alternative civilian service. Human rights defenders consider the acquittal of Ivan Mikhailau as a victory of the country’s civil society and the first step towards the adoption of the law on alternative civilian service and introduction of the mechanism of realization of the constitutional right to such service.
It is even more important as Zmitser Smyk, a Homel believer, and Yauhen Yakavenka, a member of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, are awaiting trials on similar charges.