Church Raided in Azerbaijan, Will Likely Face Fine

ICC Note: On January 28, police raided Star in the East Pentecostal Church in Azerbaijan. Officials said the church goers “didn’t do anything wrong…they simply had no registration,” but police treated them like criminals, recording personal information and filming everyone present. It is likely the church and the pastor will face a large fine for not registering with the government and choosing to practice their faith.

02/08/2018 Azerbaijan (Forum 18) – In December 2017, Sufi Muslim Rashad Abidov, whose home in the northern town of Sheki was raided by police during a religious meeting, managed to overturn the large fine handed down for holding a meeting without state permission. Police had brought the case rather than officials of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations.

On 28 January 2018, police raided a Sunday worship service of a Protestant church in Azerbaijan’s second city Gyanja. Police phoned the schools of children present at the service. Fines might follow (see below).

On 31 January, Azerbaijan’s Constitutional Court in the capital Baku wrote to Baptist pastor Hamid Shabanov in Aliabad in the northern Zakatala [Zaqatala] District to tell him it would not be considering his further appeal against a large fine for meeting for worship without state permission handed down in December 2016. Pastor Shabanov – a former prisoner of conscience – must now pay the fine of more than three months’ average wages for those in formal work. Another Baptist from the same church, Mehman Agamammadov, has now paid all three installments of his fine.

Their Baptist church in Aliabad has been seeking registration – in vain – since 1994. Police and state officials have warned church members not to meet. “If we meet again for worship, we’ll get double the fine,” Pastor Shabanov told Forum 18 officials had warned them (see below).

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