Raid on Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘Illegal’ Meeting

The State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations in collaboration with Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies carried out a raid in the Garadagh district – one of the 11 districts of Baku – on Sunday, April 9.

State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations
State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations

The State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations in collaboration with Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies carried out a raid in the Garadagh district – one of the 11 districts of Baku – on Sunday, April 9.

During the operation, authorities searched two houses, where adherents of the Jehovah Witnesses faith had gathered in prayer. According to

local media

, around 30 people were found and several religious books and materials were seized during the search.

Authorities later said such undeclared meetings were illegal. An investigation has been opened into the incident.

It is not the first time that Jehovah witnesses as well as other religious groups are being targeted by Azerbaijani authorities.

Last year in

March

, authorities interrupted the holiest observance of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Memorial of Christ’s death. The event was taking place in a private home.

In May, 34 people were charged for operating a “religious association acting outside its registered

legal address

. Similar

other events

have occurred  on several occasions.

According to the Constitution, Azerbaijan is a secular country that guarantees religious freedom.

The

Law on the Freedom of Religious Faith

provides that “everyone shall determine his/her attitude to religion independently and shall have the right to confess any religion individually or together with others, and express or spread his/her belief dealing with his/her attitude to religion”.

However, since 2009 religious groups need to be registered and need to obtain state permission in order to operate within the country. Without such a permit, exercising the freedom of religion or belief is essentially illegal.


Many groups t

hat applied for registration in 2009 are still waiting for a response. Jehovah witnesses are among them.

According to an

OSCE report

published in September 2016, Azerbaijani authorities  have imposed fines totalling AZN 83,000 (EUR 46, 757) on individuals in the past year for practising their religious. Moreover, 22 applications regarding police raids, re-registration, manifesting religious beliefs, censorship, deportation and conscientious objection have been submitted to the European Court since 2007.

Ana səhifəNewsRaid on Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘Illegal’ Meeting