Baptists threatened for sharing faith in Azerbaijan comment (0)
July 19, 2012
KHACHMAZ, Azerbaijan — After two separate incidents in neighboring regions of northern Azerbaijan bordering Russia, police have threatened six Baptists with criminal prosecution for sharing their faith with others and handing out religious literature, Baptists who asked not to be identified said. The six are awaiting possible prosecutions in their homes, but the passports of three have been confiscated. Christian literature and a car confiscated from three of them have not been returned.
Azerbaijan imposes strict state controls on all exercise of freedom of religion or belief. All religious activity without state permission is illegal. Religious literature can only be given away or sold if it has passed through the compulsory prior state censorship and only then in specialized state-approved shops. Heavy punishments are imposed for breaking these restrictions.
Three Baptists visiting the northern Khachmaz Region were detained by police on the morning of June 23 and held until 1 a.m. the following morning after they offered Christian literature to passers-by, church members said. They have been threatened with criminal charges and await possible prosecution at home.
The three Baptists — Timofei Aparshev, Nadezhda Ryzhkova and Stepanida Sheludyakova — are all members of the Council of Churches Baptist congregation in the port of Sumgait. Council of Churches congregations refuse on principle to seek state registration in any of the former Soviet republics where they operate.