Kazakh Prez signs controversial law on religion

Last Updated: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 00:20

Astana: The Kazakh President on Thursday signed a
law tightening control over religious organisations in a bid
to counter Islamist extremism, drawing criticism from
international rights groups.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the law, reflecting
"current realities and trends," his office said in a

The law bans religious ceremonies in state institutions
and requires religious groups and missionaries to re-register
with the government of the ex-Soviet state.

The authorities said the new law was needed to crack down
on extremism, after they arrested several dozen suspected
Islamist militants this summer.

But it has sparked criticism from rights groups and from
religious organisations, both Muslim and Christian.

It specifically targets unregistered minority groups such
as Muslim organisations that are not affiliated with the state
Muslim oversight body.

Around 70 percent of Kazakhstan`s 16.5 million people are
Muslims and Kazakh authorities have repeatedly expressed
concern about Muslim extremism sweeping in from other Central
Asian states and Afghanistan.

Kazakhstan, ruled by Nazarbayev since 1989 in the Soviet
era, has sought international recognition for its progress on
human rights and chaired the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010.

Last month, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions
and Human Rights slammed the law, saying it "appears to
unnecessarily restrict the freedom of religion or belief and
is poised to limit the exercise of this freedom."

In July, Kazakh authorities said they had foiled a plot by
a group of militants to organise terrorist attacks, and went
on to arrest 29 people.


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First Published: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 00:20

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