Azerbaijan Judge to "liquidate" church?

Monday, April 16, 2012

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN (Worthy News)-- A court in Baku will decide next week whether Greater Grace Protestant Church – which has been registered with the state for 19 years – should be liquidated, according to Forum 18 News Service.

The State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations filed the suit to liquidate Greater Grace last December; it was the first such suit lodged against any religious community since its strict Religion Law -- requiring the re-registration of all religious communities -- went into effect in 2009.

If the court upholds the liquidation suit by the State Committee, any public communal activity by Grace will become illegal.

Judge Tahira Asadova and the State Committee representative claimed that Greater Grace can only operate privately in its own office since the church isn't an "organization," but a "religious group". Greater Grace countered that the court can only liquidate it if it violated the Religion Law.

Some church members have complained that Judge Asadova has already decided to liquidate Greater Grace and is just looking for a rationale for her premature decision.

The State Committee argued that Greater Grace had to be liquidated as it had not undergone compulsory re-registration, but the Committee hasn't registered hundreds of religious communities that have applied for the re-registration required by the amendments to the Religion Law.

In defiance of its international human rights commitments, Azerbaijan's Religion Law has banned the exercise of religion and belief without state permission by imposing heavy penalties for any perceived violations.