Terrorism

Kyrgyzstan strengthens anti-extremism laws

By Ulan Nazarov

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The Kyrgyz parliament May 25 passes amendments to the country's civil code and law against extremism. [Tabyldy Kadyrbekov]

BISHKEK -- Concerned by several years of militancy, Kyrgyz authorities are making the laws reflect their determination to crush extremism.

Since 2011, several hundred radicalised citizens have joined militants in Syria and Iraq.

During the first half of 2016, President Almazbek Atambayev led an initiative to strengthen the country's laws against terrorism and extremism.

The effort culminated in Atambayev's July 7 signing of amendments to the civil procedure code and the Law on Fighting Extremism. All the amendments took effect July 17.

Parliament passed the amendments in May.

Authorities can act more quickly

The Anti-Extremism Law, which dates back to 2005 and was amended once in 2014, now enables courts to speed up their review of of extremist- and terrorist-related materials.

Presently, only a wing of the State Commission for Religious Affairs (GKDR) may perform pre-trial reviews of extremist materials.

The amended law will allow allow more agencies to perform the examinations.

"All of these initiatives should be viewed as a comprehensive attempt by the government to ... make the fight against extremism more effective," Sanjarbek Tashmatov, a religious security analyst with Atambayev's office, told Caravanserai.

Authorities this year have opened about 50 extremism and terrorism cases, according to the Interior Ministry (MVD).

Authorities have made more than 100 extremism-related arrests in that period and have 2,028 individuals on extremism watch lists.

So far this year, they have identified 135 cases of extremists recruiting Kyrgyz to fight abroad.

Also this year, they have repatriated 44 former Kyrgyz militants who had been fighting in the Middle East. They are working with them now.

"Achieving significant changes will take more than changing one law," Mametbek Myrzabayev, director of the Islamic Studies Institute in Bishkek, told Caravanserai. "That's not where the fight against extremism ends. We need preventive measures too."

More reforms

Fighting toxic online extremism is another priority.

The amendments allow law enforcement, with an injunction from the prosecutor's office, to block suspected extremist websites without having to wait for a court ruling.

Before the amendment became law, the government needed up to five days for a court ruling on such matters.

Training for personnel

The government is also seeking to train officials to fight extremism more knowledgeably.

Last year, officials of various MVD divisions attended a series of training sessions sponsored by international organisations.

The purpose was to increase their religious knowledge, as well as "their understanding of the law", Osh Province police spokesman Jenish Ashirbayev told Caravanserai. "During the training sessions, speakers shared their knowledge of the modern religious situation here and abroad."

Such training sessions have been going on for the past two years, with security personnel, muftiate officials and scholars helping train the attendees. The government and international groups have sponsored them.

In another training effort, the government certified more than 400 instructors from seminaries and religious universities in April. It was the first-ever round of such certification.

Authorities shut down an unspecified number of seminaries for curricular violations.

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