BISHKEK -- The State National Security Committee (GKNB) of Kyrgyzstan has proposed amendments to the nation's criminal code that would confer harsher punishment for those who fight in foreign wars or receive terrorist training.
The bill proposes a prison term of 5 to 7½ years as punishment for such crimes, 24.kg reported in late January, citing a GKNB statement.
The proposal is up for discussion with the public and expert community before parliament considers it. Authorities have set no schedule for the deliberations.
The laws in effect now mandate 2½ to 5 years' imprisonment for such offences.
"The purpose of this bill is to minimise the number of Kyrgyz citizens departing and participating in armed conflicts or military operations in foreign states or undergoing terrorist training, and to disallow them from being released on parole," said the GKNB statement.
"The objective is to amend Article 243 of the Criminal Code ... to stiffen punishment in the form of imprisonment," it said.
A Kyrgyz citizen's participation in foreign wars or enrolment in terrorist training abroad poses a major threat to the national security of Kyrgyzstan, said the GKNB.
"This is because a mercenary fights ... for material gain, while someone fighting in a war or receiving terrorist training abroad as part of terrorist organisations has ... plans to commit acts of terrorism abroad or in the Kyrgyz Republic," said the statement.
About 600 Kyrgyz citizens are presently abroad as members of extremist and terrorist groups, according to Rakhat Sulaimanov, a GKNB spokesman.
Specialists support amendments
More than 400 convicted terrorists and extremists are imprisoned across the country, according to the state penal service.
Short terms of imprisonment sometimes do not permit a convict's rehabilitation, said Ikbol Mirsaitov, a Bishkek analyst of religious security issues.
"There are citizens of ours in Syria and Iraq who are fighting there and intend to return," he said.
"In this sense, the special services should have some oversight [of imprisoned returnees]. Someone gets from 2½ to 5 years. That's really too short to really work with him in a preventive way," Mirsaitov said.
The measure to toughen penalties is correct and necessary, said former GKNB Chairman Keneshbek Dushebayev.
"Terrorism and extremism all over the world are gaining new momentum, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to fight them. How many of our citizens are fighting in other countries ... ? They are training there in extremism, fanaticism, radicalism," he said.
"And if they intend to continue such actions upon returning here, this creates a danger to the public and the state, so I believe it is appropriate to put forward such initiatives. Accountability for such actions needs to be increased," said Dushebayev.
Artur Medetbekov of Bishkek, a security analyst and former deputy chairman of the GKNB, agreed.
"It seems to me that the question of increasing penalties is relevant to today," he said.
"Recently, the indoctrination of various [Kyrgyz] citizens, especially illiterate, degraded ones, who are seeking to get something material, moral in life, has been occurring," said Medetbekov.
"They are trying to find themselves,and commit various kinds of crimes against humanity," he said. "The problem is becoming more urgent, and this stepping up [of punishment] needed to be done several years ago. But still, the time has come."