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    » 08/01/2008, 00.00

    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.

    Baku (AsiaNews/F18) - Baptist pastor Hamid Shabanov remains in jail, after the court of Zagatala (northwestern Azerbaijan) asked the prosecutor for "further investigation" on July 29. Meanwhile, the authorities refuse to register the group.

    Mirman Aliev, Shabanov's lawyer, calls it a "partial victory". "We called for Shabanov to be acquitted, for an end to the criminal case and for him to be freed. But the judge was afraid to do so and instead sent the case back for further investigation", with a deadline of August 23. He explains that there is no real evidence, and that his client is on trial "only because he is Christian", and that the trial has been full of irregularities, like reference to statements by unidentified witnesses.

    Ilya Zenchenko, head of the country's Baptist Union, who came together with the lawyer for the trial from Baku, 450 kilometers away, agrees that "there is still much struggle ahead to free Hamid". He explains that the deputy chief of the local police, Kamandar Hasanov, after the decision by the court, took him to the police station for a long interrogation, accusing him of being "an English spy who acts only for money", and warning him "not to return to the area and not to help the local Baptists". Hasanov has for some time persecuted the Baptists in the area, and on March 19, when he had to release the pastor Zaur Balaev (in the photo), he threatened him with new charges if he continues to care for his faithful.

    Shabanov was arrested on June 20 for "firearms possession", which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. But his relatives and congregation insists that the pistol and ammunition are not Shabanov's, but - Aliev insists - were "planted" by the police. Shabanov is a leader of the Baptist community of Aliabad, where the police confiscate religious books and refuse to give birth certificates to children with Christian names. Shabanov has also had copies of the Bible in Azeri and Georgian confiscated, but responds that the text has been approved by the appropriate state commission.

    The local Baptist community has asked the state for official recognition, but on July 22 the notary Najiba Mamedova refused to accept the necessary documents. The police intervened, accusing the Baptists of creating a disturbance and taking a number of them to jail.

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    See also

    16/01/2009 CHINA
    Beijing does not recognize domestic churches, and persecutes them
    Last Christmas, there were demolitions of buildings and arrests of the faithful of domestic Christian churches. But the authorities are trying to pass everything off in silence.

    05/11/2010 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."

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


    29/10/2009 PAKISTAN
    Blasphemy law: a long list of injustices (An overview)
    Under Sections 295 B and 205-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, anyone who desecrates the Qur‘an or defiles the name of the prophet Muhammad is punished with death or life imprisonment. Implemented in 1986 by then dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, to woo the country’s fundamentalist faction, the laws have become a tool to persecute religious minorities and even Muslims. Almost a thousand people have been charged so far under the law, and hundreds have become its victims.

    30/09/2008 KAZAKHSTAN
    In Astana, parliament is approving a law for "religious unfreedom"
    The lower chamber has approved the text, which will soon go to the senate for final review. The authors of the law refuse to release the text. But human rights activists say that it contains restrictive measures to wipe out many religious groups that today are permitted. No interest in observations from the OSCE.



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