'Witches' face fine in Tajikistan

Dushanbe, Tajikistan - The lower house of parliament in Tajikistan has endorsed a bill to try to tackle what it describes as fortune-telling and witchcraft.

Those found engaging in superstitious activities could be fined $200 (£98).

Belief in the occult is widespread in many former Soviet societies. The Tajik authorities say those claiming occult powers are charlatans.

The bill still needs the upper house of parliament and the president to approve it, but this is considered a formality.

Earlier this year President Emomali Rakhmon introduced heavy fines for extravagant weddings and funerals as part of an anti-poverty drive.

He set out strict limits on the numbers of guests, meals and cars permitted.

A draft text of the new law says: "Those indulging in sorcery and fortune-telling shall be fined between 30 and 40 times the minimum monthly wage."

Tajikistan is the poorest of the ex-Soviet states in central Asia. It borders Afghanistan and suffered civil war between 1992 and 1997.