WASHINGTON (AP) -- Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Turkmenistan are the world's worst oppressors of religious freedom, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported.
And Afghanistan's Taliban regime is a ''particularly severe violator'' of religious freedom, the commission said in a report to Secretary of State Colin Powell recommending that the United States make such designations official.
The commission was established in 1998 to monitor religious persecution for Congress and the executive branch.
It said conditions have improved in Yugoslavia, but grave problems with religious freedom persist in India, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Pakistan and recommended close monitoring of those nations.
In Pakistan, a court sentenced Sheikh Mohammed Younus to death for blasphemy in alleged insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during classes at a private college.
If appeals fail, Younus could become the first Pakistani hanged for blasphemy by court order, though past defendants have been killed by religious extremists.
On the Net:
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: http://www.uscirf.gov
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