SEOUL, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- A South Korean appeals court has acquitted eight men sentenced to prison terms after refusing to carry out mandatory military service.
The ruling on Thursday comes before a next week's hearing by the highest court on the long-running battle of conscientious military objectors against the state.
Eight men, who were sentenced to an 18-months prison term in the first trial, have been found not guilty in appeals by Changwon District Court.
"Their decision to refuse to serve in the military has been made on the grounds of freedom of conscience, which we viewed as a fair reason under the current military law that doesn't offer alternative ways," the court statement read, according to Hankyoreh.
Under the South Korea's military law, those who don't abide by the mandatory military service should serve prison terms instead.
A total of 2,699 men refused to serve in the military from 2013 to 2017, with most based on their religious beliefs, according to the Military Manpower Administration. The conscientious objectors serve an 18-months prison term instead and leave with a criminal record.
Recently, there have been appeals court rulings that acquit conscientious military objectors.
In June, the Constitutional Court of Korea found the Military Service Act "unconstitutional" as it doesn't offer alternative services and ruled that the government should offer alternative ways for conscientious objectors that could replace the mandatory military service.