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AZERBAIJAN: Ramadan mosque bans, JW jailed, Church ban upheld
ICC Note:
A church that was legally registered by the state since 1993 was forced to re-register in 2009. They were denied their re-registration (getting a legal registration is nearly impossible) and told they would have to liquidate and cease all religious activities. They’ve been fighting it in court, but lost. The church plans to take this to Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court.
By Felix Corley
08/09/2012 Azerbaijan (Forum18)- Baku’s Greater Grace Protestant Church has failed in its bid to overturn the lower court decision to liquidate it and ban its activity. A panel of three judges at Baku Appeal Court, headed by Judge Seriyye Seyidova, rejected the Church’s appeal on 31 July, the court website notes.
Court liquidation would forcibly close the Church. All unregistered exercise of freedom of religion or belief is – against international human rights standards – illegal under the Religion Law.
Church members told Forum 18 they are already preparing a further appeal to Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court. They insist they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary.
The Church has had state registration with the Justice Ministry since 1993. The State Committee, which is now in charge of registering religious communities, lodged a liquidation suit in December 2011, arguing that the Church should be liquidated for failing to gain re-registration with it in 2009. On 25 April 2012, Administrative Economic Court No. 1 upheld the State Committee’s suit. Baku Appeal Court began hearing the Church’s appeal on 17 July (see F18News 20 July 2012
The Church insists that the liquidation suit brought by the State Committee should have been rejected, as one state body should not be able to seek the cancellation of registration by a different state body. It also points out the near-impossibility for Protestant communities to gain re-registration from the State Committee.
Many Protestant communities are among hundreds of religious communities, including mosques as well as Jehovah’s Witness communities, whose re-registration applications were lodged before the Religion Law’s deadline of the end of 2009. These have been either rejected or not answered. The State Committee is known to have approved only six registration or re-registration applications since the beginning of 2012.

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