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(Forum 18) – In the latest of numerous unfounded allegations that Rafik Aliev, head of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations, has made to local media, he has accused the Adventist and Greater Grace Protestant churches of, amongst other things, conducting “illegal religious propaganda” and of disturbing “citizens residing near places where prayers are held.”

“We Protestants have been trying to build up a relationship of trust with him and then he comes out with these unfounded accusations,” one Protestant told Forum 18 News Service. Aliev’s committee was reported as taking “tough measures up to their [the churches] closure.” Aliev used a similar approach in 2002 to close down Baku ‘s Azeri-language Baptist church. Pastor Yahya Zavrichko, who heads the Adventist Church in Azerbaijan , told Forum 18 that “Last time Rafik Aliev complained about us in the media a month ago we spoke to him and he confirmed he had no facts of any violations we had committed.”