Take action!
How to Get Involved
 
 

Police Detain Baptists in Azerbaijan; Confiscate Passports, Car and Christian Literature

AZERBAIJAN: Not arrested, merely detained

ICC Note:

In Azerbaijan you have to have permission from the government to distribute religious materials. They have “special stores” where those types of things can be purchased, and you have to jump through several hoops to even get materials approved. In this case, three Baptists were detained for sharing their faith and handing out religious material. They were interrogated at the police station and their passports, religious material and car were confiscated. Though they are now home, they are awaiting the final decision as to their fate. This is a blatant violation of their religious freedoms. Situations like this should not be happening.

By Felix Corley

06/28/2012 Azerbaijan (Forum18)- Police in Azerbaijan have threatened six Baptists with criminal prosecution for sharing their beliefs with others, Forum 18 News Service has learned. The passports of three have been confiscated, as has Christian literature and a car. Deputy police chief Misir Imamaliyev, who interrogated one group held at a police station, claimed to Forum 18 that they were not arrested but merely detained. "Distribution of any religious books without state permission is illegal", he stated. Elsewhere, Baku's Greater Grace Protestant Church is awaiting its appeal against a court ruling that it be liquidated.

After two separate incidents in neighbouring regions of northern Azerbaijan bordering Russia, police have threatened six Baptists with criminal prosecution for sharing their faith with others, and handing out religious literature, Baptists who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 News Service. The six are all awaiting possible prosecutions in their homes, but the passports of three have been confiscated. Christian literature and a car confiscated from three of them have not been returned.

Azerbaijan imposes strict state controls on all exercise of freedom of religion or belief. All religious activity without state permission is illegal. Religious literature can only be given away or sold if it has passed through the compulsory prior state censorship and only then in specialised state-approved shops. Heavy punishments are imposed for breaking these restrictions

After two separate incidents in neighbouring regions of northern Azerbaijan bordering Russia, police have threatened six Baptists with criminal prosecution for sharing their faith with others, and handing out religious literature, Baptists who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 News Service. The six are all awaiting possible prosecutions in their homes, but the passports of three have been confiscated. Christian literature and a car confiscated from three of them have not been returned.

Azerbaijan imposes strict state controls on all exercise of freedom of religion or belief. All religious activity without state permission is illegal. Religious literature can only be given away or sold if it has passed through the compulsory prior state censorship and only then in specialised state-approved shops. Heavy punishments are imposed for breaking these restrictions.

Three Baptists visiting the northern Khachmaz [Xacmaz] Region were detained by police on the morning of 23 June and held until 1 am the following morning, after they offered Christian literature to passers-by, church members told Forum 18. They have been threatened with criminal charges and await possible prosecution at home. "They handed out at most five or six items of literature", church members told Forum 18 on 28 June.

The three Baptists - Timofei Aparshev, Nadezhda Ryzhkova and Stepanida Sheludyakova - are all members of the Council of Churches Baptist congregation in the port of Sumgait [Sumqayit]. Council of Churches congregations refuse on principle to seek state registration in any of the former Soviet republics where they operate.

After a conversation with a group of people and distribution of literature, one young man came up to them and asked them to give what they were giving. He then immediately approached the police. The three Baptists were taken to the police station where they were asked the same questions separately. Among those questioning them was Khachmaz Deputy Police Chief Misir Imamaliyev.

After they refused to write a statement, the Representative for Northern Azerbaijan of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations, Eynulla Nurullayev, arrived and began to question each of them separately. He threatened to file criminal charges under Article 167-2, Part 1 ("Production, sale and distribution of religious literature, religious items and other informational materials of religious nature with the aim of import, sale and distribution without appropriate authorisation"). Part 1 punishes first time "offenders" acting alone.

At 11 pm on 23 June the three Baptists were taken to the head of the Criminal Investigation Department, who treated them "especially crudely". Police confiscated their passports "so as not to allow them to flee to Russia" according to police. All three are Azerbaijani citizens. They were released from the police station at 1 am on 24 June.

Currently, police say they are collecting materials to institute criminal proceedings, and the case has been transferred to Sumgait Police. The three are expecting to be summoned there for further questioning, church members told Forum 18.

Khachmaz Deputy Police Chief Imamaliyev insisted that the three Baptists had not been arrested, but merely detained while their identity was being established. "They didn't have their documents with them," he told Forum 18 from Khachmaz on 28 June. He stressed that they are now back at home.

Imamaliyev defended the detention. "Our Criminal Code was recently amended, and you need permission to distribute any religious literature, whether Muslim or Christian."

Asked whether Azerbaijan has freedom of speech, Imamaliyev claimed that it does. Asked whether distributing books about socialism or vegetarianism was also banned he said: "Those times have gone. But distributing religious literature requires permission. We have special shops where religious literature can be sold."

Imamaliyev said State Committee representative Nurullayev had to be involved "as he had to give an assessment of the books". "He said that distribution of any religious books without permission is illegal."

Asked whether the three Baptists will be brought to court, Imamaliyev told Forum 18: "The investigator is still looking into this. But everything will be OK, we won't imprison anyone."

...

[ Full Story ]

Forward to a friend
  • Kids

    Care for orphans and hurting children

    read more
  • Families

    Support wives and children of imprisoned or martyed pastors

    read more
  • Pastors

    Spread the gospel by supporting underground pastors

    read more
  • Women

    Save women from abduction and sexual exploitation

    read more
  • Communities

    Help rebuild communities devastated by persecution

    read more

Other Projects

other projects

ICC is constantly monitoring the state of Christian persecution in countries around the world and looking for ways that we can act as bridge between our supporters and the persecuted church. Beyond the projects you see above, we are working in many other areas to provide practical assistance to our brothers and sisters in Christ. View our other projects page to understand more of our work and keep up to date on our current projects.