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U.s. Embassy Urges Kazakh Authorities to End Harassment of Hare Krishna

by International Herald Tribune

Posted December 15, 2006

Click Here for the article in IHT.com
ALMATY, Kazakhstan

The United States on Thursday urged Kazakhstan's authorities to end what it called an "aggressive" campaign against the country's tiny Hare Krishna community.

The U.S. Embassy said it had "several concerns" regarding the legal basis for the demolition last month of Hare Krishna's 13 summer houses outside the Kazakh commercial capital, Almaty.

In April, Kazakh courts found the Hare Krishna members guilty of illegally acquiring land and ordered that the houses be destroyed and the land confiscated.

"Regardless of the merits of the underlying case, the forceful eviction of homeowners in freezing temperatures and the destruction of their possessions, contradicted principles of due process and fairness," the Embassy said in a statement.

Laborers with crowbars and bulldozers destroyed the community's 13 country houses at their farm on Nov. 21, while police prevented community members from interfering.

The Hare Krishna community denies breaking property laws and says it is a victim of religious intolerance.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement after the demolitions that the move "suggests they have been targeted on the basis of their religious affiliation."

The U.S. Embassy urged the Karasai district authorities who were behind the legal action against the Hare Krishna community "to refrain from any further aggressive actions ... and to work toward a fair, lawful, and peaceful resolution of the ongoing legal dispute."

Kazakh authorities have long been seen as being more tolerant of other religions than other governments in mostly Muslim ex-Soviet Central Asia, but in recent years they have tightened laws governing religious organizations, citing concerns about Islamic extremism.


[International Herald Tribune] www.iht.com/ Copyright (©) 2006 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com