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    » 11/05/2010, 00.00

    AZERBAIJAN

    Baptist Christians in prison for having gathered to pray



    The police raided a private home, a photographer present, cutting electricity and gas. 4 Baptists detained, taken to court and convicted the same night. In the country persecution of Baptists and Jehovah's Witnesses frequent, to combat "extremism."

    Baku (AsiaNews/F18) - Police burst into a private home and arrested 4 of Baptist Christians "guilty" of praying together, in the northern Qusar. Ilgar Mamedov owner of the house and three other Christians (Zalib Ibrahimov, Rauf Gurbanov and Akif Babaev) , were arrested by police on Oct. 31, and immediately brought before the local tribunal, which sentenced them to five days in jail, in a swift hearing held behind closed doors, without access to a defense.

    Forum 18 news agency reports that on November 1, another Christian, went to the police to ask for news of the four arrested the night before, he knew the trial had already taken place. The nature of the offense is not clear, while faithful report that the police threatened them with even harsher penalties.

    There were about 80 Baptists gathered in the house for Sunday celebrations. Before leaving, the police also cut gas and electricity to the apartment, to prevent them from preparing a festive lunch. Police took the names of the faithful gathered in the house, photographing and filming those present.

    Police say it was a "normal" operation against illegal meetings. In this country religious groups must register and seek authorization for any activity, even to get together to pray. Many groups of Baptist Churches refuse to ask for registration, to avoid state interference. However, others say they have applied for recognition but their applications have been blocked for bureaucratic reasons.

    Ilya Zenchenko, head of Azerbaijan's Baptist community, told Radio Free Europe that the Qusar police frequently arrest and charge members of religious groups, saying they must fight "extremism."

    In the country are frequent condemnations of Baptist Christians. In May 2008, the pastor Zauer Balaev was sentenced to two years in prison for a crime based on evidence denounced as false. He 'was released in March 2008 following a formal protest by the World Baptist Alliance and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

    Baptist pastor Hamid Shabanov was arrested in 2009 on charges of having weapons found by police during a search, although those who know him guarantees that he never had them.

    In another case, the court of Baku sentenced a Jehovah's Witness to a hefty fine for offering religious publications to passers-by on the street.
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    See also

    01/08/2008 AZERBAIJAN
    Police use false evidence to arrest Baptist pastor
    The claim is made by Pastor Shabanov's lawyer. There is no evidence in the case, but the pastor is in jail awaiting new investigations. Meanwhile, the local authorities refuse to register the local Baptist group.

    22/01/2010 AZERBAIJAN
    In December, the Azerbaijani authorities banned Shiite faithful from celebrating Ashura
    It is a festival for Shiite Muslims. The day of the festival in the region of Nakhichevan, the police invited everyone to go home. In a village they go ahead with celebrations: in the days after the police raided homes making dozens of arrests. Experts say it is an attempt to undermine the strong autonomy of the area.

    17/07/2007 AZERBAIJIAN
    On trial, a Baptist pastor in prison for over two months
    The frail man, is accused of having assaulted 5 policemen and of having led illegal religious meetings. For over 13 years his group having being requesting official recognition. Experts: authorities use the refusal to grant authorization to discriminate against undesired religious groups.

    05/07/2004 AZERBAIJAN
    Government Shuts down Djuma Mosque Now Slated to Be a Carpet Museum


    13/04/2011 AZERBAIJAN
    Baku: "unregistered" Christians forbidden to pray together
    The new religious freedom law prohibits any activity of unregistered religious groups. Many groups have sought registration, but is slow in coming. Meanwhile, the police arrest the "offenders". But President Ilham Aliev congratulates himself on his promotion of religious freedom.



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