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US Says Kyrgyz Law Would Restrict Religious Freedom


U.S. lawmakers are urging Kyrgyzstan's president not to sign legislation they say will severely restrict religious freedom in the Central Asian country.

The U.S. representatives, Alcee Hastings, Benjamin Cardin and Christopher Smith, and members of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, sent a letter to Kyrgz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on Wednesday, saying the passage of a draft religious law would violate international norms and damage the country's reputation.

The lawmakers said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has reviewed the legislation and found that it would restrict religious freedom by raising the minimum number of members required for registration, banning unregistered communities, and restricting children's education and missionary activity.

The U.S. congressmen called on the Kyrgz president to return the legislation to parliament for revision to ensure that the country upholds its commitments to the OSCE.

Last year, a U.S.-based non-governmental organization, Freedom House, said Kyrgyzstan took significant steps backwards when it came to ensuring political rights and civil liberties.

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