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Azerbaijani court rules against State censorship of religious literature - JW-Media.org

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Azerbaijani court rules against State censorship of religious literature

by JW-Media.org | For Immediate Release | November 3, 2011

BAKU, Azerbaijan—The Baku Administrative-Economic Court No. 1 made an unprecedented ruling against the government’s censorship of religious literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses on September 9, 2011. For many years, State censorship in Azerbaijan has seriously limited Jehovah’s Witnesses’ lawful access to religious publications essential to their worship.

Judge Tahira Asadova’s decision obliges the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations (SCWRA) to allow importation, in the quantities requested, of all the publications at issue in the case. This includes the December 15, 2010, issue of The Watchtower that the SCWRA had previously banned. The court concluded that nothing in the magazine incited the use of force against others or encouraged religious hostility or enmity. Rather, it found that the journal simply contained thoughts regarding doctrines of other religions, which are a manifestation of religious belief protected under the Constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ruling also relied on the case law of the ECHR, including Kokkinakis v. Greece, which held that religious freedom is not only a matter of individual conscience but also the freedom to “manifest one’s religion.”

To date, the SCWRA has refused to allow the importation of more than 30 different religious publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Moreover, when the SCWRA does grant permission to import literature, it arbitrarily limits the quantity of each publication Jehovah’s Witnesses may import. In its September 9 decision, the Administrative-Economic Court found that the SCWRA had failed to justify why it placed such limitations on the quantity allowed for importation.

Despite this clear message, the SCWRA has not let up in its censorship of religious literature. In the last two months, the SCWRA has continued to restrict the quantity of publications Jehovah’s Witnesses can import into the country—the same publications the SCWRA has found to contain nothing harmful. The SCWRA has systematically reduced the importation quantities allowed by anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of the requested amount.

Article Source: JW-Media.org


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