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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

AZERBAIJAN: Strasbourg Court rules long pre-trial detention "excessive"

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled in three cases in 2020 that Azerbaijan violated the rights of 13 individuals by subjecting them to excessively long pre-trial detention, and ordered compensation. Five of these had been detained for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Imam Taleh Bagirov – who was tortured in pre-trial detention – and Zakir Mustafayev are still serving jail terms.

AZERBAIJAN: Will fired parliamentary staffer be reinstated?

Former parliamentary staffer Rahim Akhundov says he was fired in December 2018 on secret police orders as he is a Christian. Courts – most recently Baku Appeal Court on 10 June 2020 - rejected arguments that his unsigned dismissal letter is illegal, and he could not appeal earlier as Parliament sent the letter nine months late. He will appeal to the Supreme Court when he receives the written appeal rejection.

AZERBAIJAN: Will regime implement alternative service commitment?

Ruling party deputy Siyavush Novruzov told parliament on 30 March that an Alternative Service Law should be adopted. Parliament's Defence Committee is handling this, he told Forum 18. The government has not made public any draft. Azerbaijan committed to the Council of Europe to have alternative service by 2003 but failed to meet its obligation. Jehovah's Witnesses say criminal cases against their conscientious objectors are not being pursued.

AZERBAIJAN: "No objection" to limited worship, but no legal right

After 25 years, Aliabad's Baptist community, denied legal status the longest, finally began open worship in January. The State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations wrote that it had "no objection" to meetings once a week for two hours. Shia Imam Sardar Babayev, freed after a three-year sentence for preaching in a mosque with foreign education, will not resume preaching for fear of renewed criminal prosecution.

AZERBAIJAN: European court fines regime for religious censorship

The European Court of Human Rights ordered Azerbaijan to compensate Jehovah's Witnesses over an import ban on three publications. Muslim theologian Elshad Miri lodged a case to the Court over the 2018 ban on his book on Islam. The State Committee – which implements the compulsory prior religious censorship – allowed Miri to publish only 3,000 copies of his next book. Customs destroyed a Georgian Orthodox book.

AZERBAIJAN: Large fine amid continuing religious censorship

A Baku court fined Kamran Huseynzade four months' average wages for selling religious books outside a mosque without state permission. The head of the censorship department at the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations lamented that only 42 of 100 places selling religious literature have the required state licence. All published and imported religious literature is subject to prior compulsory censorship.

AZERBAIJAN: Censorship case to join 51 other ECtHR cases?

After failing in the Supreme Court to overturn a state ban on his book on Islam, Elshad Miri is preparing a case to the European Court of Human Rights. It would join 51 existing cases at the Strasbourg court (involving 86 individuals and 7 communities) over Azerbaijan's repeated freedom of religion or belief violations.

AZERBAIJAN: Appeal court upholds couple's massive fines

Shirvan Appeal Court rejected the appeals by a Baptist husband and wife against fines of more than three months' average wages each for having religious literature and holding a New Year children's meeting without state permission. Three Protestants were fined for a study meeting in a Sheki home. A Muslim in Sheki failed to overturn a fine for teaching Islam.

AZERBAIJAN: Appeals fail against illegal raids, fines

Baptist Pastor from Aliabad Hamid Shabanov has failed to overturn a fine for hosting religious meetings without compulsory state permission. The Constitutional Court again rejected his appeal. Four Jehovah's Witnesses failed in their civil suit seeking redress for the police's illegal entry without a court order or search warrant, their "detention, verbal insults and humiliation", and literature seizure.

AZERBAIJAN: Book censorship appeal still in Supreme Court

Theologian Elshad Miri's Supreme Court suit to overturn the state's ban on publishing his book on Islam resumes on 25 June. At a May hearing, the state lawyer "was unable to give a reasoned refutation of our arguments", Miri's lawyer said. Mammad Ramazanov lost his appeal against a large fine for "illegal" distribution of religious books.

AZERBAIJAN: Supreme Court rejects conscientious objectors' appeals

Two Jehovah's Witnesses – given one-year suspended prison terms and living under restrictions for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience – failed to overturn their criminal convictions at the Supreme Court in April. Shia Imam Sardar Babayev, jailed for leading Muslim worship after gaining religious education outside Azerbaijan, awaits a European Court of Human Rights decision.

AZERBAIJAN: Six years already, nearly six months more

Rearrested days before a six year jail term for protesting against a ban on schoolgirls wearing headscarves ended, Telman Shiraliyev was sentenced to an additional nearly six month term. "The trial was short and took place without a lawyer as his family is too poor to afford one," human rights defender Elshan Hasanov told Forum 18.