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AZERBAIJAN: Up to five years' imprisonment for uncensored religious literature?

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AZERBAIJAN: Up to five years' imprisonment for uncensored religious literature?

By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

Prison terms of up to five years or maximum fines of nearly nine years' official minimum wage are set to be adopted by Parliament in mid-November for groups of people who produce or distribute religious literature without going through Azerbaijan's compulsory prior state censorship of all religious literature.

Hundreds of religious communities are still waiting for registration or re-registration with the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations. Re-registration was mandated by the 2009 Religion Law amendments and should have been completed by the end of 2009.

Two religious communities – Cathedral of Praise Protestant Church and Baku's Jehovah's Witness community - are known to have challenged the State Committee's failure to re-register them through the courts.

On 12 September, Judge Azad Imanov of Baku Appeal Court rejected the Jehovah's Witness community's latest suit against the State Committee, the court website noted. Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 1 November that they will challenge the rejection once again to the Supreme Court. "Drawn-out legal proceedings and contradictory judicial decisions have left Jehovah's Witnesses in Azerbaijan in a state of uncertainty," they complained.

The Jehovah's Witness community first challenged the denial of registration at Sabail District Court – the local Baku court for the State Committee where such suits are initially heard - in July 2010. Its first appeal to Baku Appeal Court was rejected in January 2011. Jehovah's Witnesses lodged a further appeal, and in May the Supreme Court overturned the lower court decision, sending the case back to Baku Appeal Court. Judge Imanov began hearing the appeal on 11 July.

Article Source: http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1632


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