A pending court case is refocusing attention on the issue of religious freedom in Azerbaijan. Officials are seeking to revoke the registration of a small Christian community in Baku. If successful, it would mark the first closure of what had once been an officially recognized denomination, since new registration procedures came into force in 2009.
An Azerbaijani court is expected to rule April 26 on a suit brought by the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations (SCWRO). The committee is calling for the closure of the Greater Grace Church, a 400-member, Baku-based Protestant community. Officials insist that the Protestant church failed to file extensive background information for re-registration with the government, as required by 2009 amendments to Azerbaijan’s Law on Religion. Judge Tahira Asadova earlier had suggested that Greater Grace shut down so that it could then re-register with the SCWRO in order to be in compliance with the law.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance reporter based in Baku.