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US asks for release of those jailed for religion

The U.S. special envoy for religious freedom Sam Brownback said Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic had made the situation more urgent, particularly in authoritarian countries known for repression of religious minorities.

Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo Discusses The Annual Report On International Religious Freedom
Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, delivers remarks following a briefing from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the 2018 International Religious Freedom Annual Report at the State Department on June 21, 2019 in Washington, DC. Secretary Pompeo did not take questions from the press on religious freedom or Iran.
Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is calling on governments around the world to immediately release hundreds of thousands if not millions of prisoners who have been jailed for peacefully practicing their religion.

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The U.S. special envoy for religious freedom Sam Brownback said Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic had made the situation more urgent, particularly in authoritarian countries known for repression of religious minorities. He cited China, Indonesia, Iran, Eritrea, North Korea, Russia and Vietnam as having significant numbers of prisoners of religious conscience in jails.

“These are people who should not be in jail on the first place,” Brownback told reporters. “In this time of pandemic religious prisoners should be released. It’s good health practice and the right thing to do.”

Brownback also called for governments to push back on allegations from some quarters that religious minorities are to blame for the spread of the COVID-19 virus.