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Kyrgyzstan Toughens Punishment For Blocking Highways

Kyrgyzstan has stepped up punishment for blocking roads, a common form of protest in the Central Asian nation.

President Almazbek Atambaev's office said on October 29 that he had signed a bill on the issue into law.

It increases the potential punishment for blocking regular roads to an $1,100 fine -- up from $80 -- and five days in jail.

Offenders convicted of blocking a strategic highway for more than 24 hours can be sentenced to three years in prison.

In recent years, antigovernment protesters and activists have blocked roads and highways, sometimes halting transportation for weeks.

In May and June, supporters of former parliament speaker Akmatbek Keldibekov blocked the Osh-Erkechtam highway in southern Kyrgyzstan for almost a month and clashed with police.

In August, Keldibekov, who is on trial for corruption, was allowed to leave the country to receive urgent medical treatment in Germany.

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