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The Constitutional Council of Kazakhstan in April ruled that newly proposed restrictions on religion would violate the nation's constitution.

"In time, authorities will launch a new campaign against believers," said human rights activist Ninel Fokina of the Almaty Helsinki Committee in an interview with Keston News Service. "But for now, we have a breathing space."

The controversial restrictions, aimed at "nontraditional" religions, would have banned unregistered groups and required missionaries to register with the government.

"The battle with the [religion] law has been going since 1998," Roman Dudnik, executive director of the Association of Religious Organizations of Kazakhstan, told Christianity Today. "But the pressure put by the government upon the believers had some positive results—it helped the believers stand together."

President Nursultan Nazarbayev will not appeal the council's decision. Under Kazakh law, when the president appeals a council ruling, the council votes a second time and must have a two-thirds majority to sustain its initial decision.

President Nazarbayev urged parliament in January to approve tough restrictions on unregistered religious groups by amending the existing law on religion. Both houses of parliament approved the amendments, which the high court agreed to review in March.

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June 10, 2002

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