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Kazakhstan: Astana Mulls Expansion of Anti-Terror Controls
ICC Note:
In its attempts to counter terrorism, Kazakhstan has “cast the net too far” in its restrictions of religious groups, including Christians. While this article seems to lean towards support of the government, we feel that the government has infringed on the religious freedoms of its people.  “It’s very, very clear what the intent of the government is: to ratchet up the controls that already exist on all kinds of religious activities, when people should be free to get involved in them without state permission or state controls,” said Felix Corley of Forum 18.
By Joanna Lillis
06/20/2013 Kazakhstan (EurasiaNet)- This year and last, Astana has jailed scores on terrorism charges while significantly tightening restrictions on religious groups. Now authorities are poised to adopt an anti-extremism blueprint that – according to a draft seen by EurasiaNet.org – contains a raft of measures mostly favoring the stick over the carrot.
Officials are awakening to the need to tackle the terrorism threat, says Yerlan Karin, an analyst specializing in security matters. “The fact that the authorities have taken the threat of terrorism seriously, critically reviewed the national security system, and drawn up new approaches in anti-terrorism policy has encouraged a lowering of the threat level,” he told EurasiaNet.org.
The draft State Program on Counteracting Religious Extremism and Terrorism for 2013-2017 contains strategies to bolster existing policies, such as restrictions on religious literature and close monitoring of religious groups and missionary activity. It also outlines expansive new policies, including installing video surveillance in places of worship and monitoring students studying theology abroad. To show it means business, Astana plans to allocate $1.3 billion for the five-year program.
Critics are concerned that the net to capture extremists is being cast too wide. “It’s very, very clear what the intent of the government is: to ratchet up the controls that already exist on all kinds of religious activities, when people should be free to get involved in them without state permission or state controls,” said Felix Corley of Oslo-based religious freedoms watchdog Forum 18. The group published its own analysis of the state’s blueprint recently.
The General-Prosecutor’s Office, which is spearheading the program, declined to answer questions by telephone and did not immediately respond to faxed queries. Astana has argued that an uptick in extremist activity in Kazakhstan – previously regarded as a haven of stability in a volatile region – necessitates a hard-hitting response.

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