International urged Turkey on Friday to release a gay
conscientious objector who is serving a record four-year
term in a military prison for disobedience after
refusing twice to wear his military uniform. Mehmet
Tarhan was sentenced by a military court in the
eastern city of Sivas in August. The prison term was the
highest passed down to a conscientious objector in
Turkey, a country that opened European Union
membership talks in November.
month an appeals court overturned the sentence and requested
a retrial, calling for an intimate medical examination to
establish that Tarhan is gay and "unfit to serve"
his military service. Amnesty called for Tarhan's
immediate release, for Turkey to recognize the right
to conscientious objection, and to establish a civilian
service as an alternative to compulsory military
It also asked
Turkey not to subject Tarhan to a "cruel, inhuman, or
degrading" physical examination. "Amnesty International is
concerned that the Turkish authorities are focusing on
Mehmet Tarhan's sexual orientation as a means of
avoiding the wider issue of conscientious objection to
military service, which is not recognized in Turkey,"
the group said.
Turkey is obligatory for men over the age of 20, and
conscientious objectors have been prosecuted on charges of
turning people against the military. Conscientious
objectors find few supporters in Turkey, where the
military is revered, conscription has widespread
support, and young men are sent off to do their military
service amid celebrations.
Tarhan was first
put in a military prison shortly after he was forcibly
conscripted in April for refusing to wear his uniform. He
was released three months later and again refused to
wear a uniform and was again sent to prison. Tarhan's
lawyer, Suna Coskun, said that during her client's
first imprisonment he was beaten and threatened by fellow
inmates, who also forced him to give them money. (AP)