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Reports 158 in Jail for Refusing Military Service

April 23, 1988

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ The government disclosed Friday that there are 158 people in jail for refusing to serve in the military under the law that makes 18 months of service compulsory.

Some church leaders and dissidents had demanded that communist authorities say how many conscientious objectors are imprisoned.

The official MTI news agency quoted government spokesman Reszo Banyas as saying at a news conference Friday there are currently 158 conscientious objectors in jail.

Of those, he said 146 are Jehovah’s Witnesses, six are Roman Catholics, one is a member of a Nazarene church, one a Seventh Day Adventist and three are ″uncomfortable″ about military service.

MTI quoted Banyas as saying the other prisoner, Zsolt Keszthelyi, objected to military service on political grounds.

Last spring, Keszthelyi was sentenced to three years after he refused military service saying the government that controlled the armed forces was not democratically elected.

According to Western analysts, about 40 Catholics and many more Jehovah’s Witnesses have been jailed over the past 12 years for refusing to serve in the army.

Banyas was quoted as saying the government ″is looking into this matter and considering adoption of a new decision on conscientious objectors.″

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