CENSORSHIPS IN APRIL 2019
According the Norwegian organization Forum 18, on 27 February 2019 the believer Mammad Ramazanov from Zaqatala, a city in the northwest of the country, was fined by the local district court under the Article 516.0.2 (violation of the legislation on freedom of religion, sale of religious literature, audio and video materials, religious goods and products, imposes a fine from 2,000 to 2,500 manat or 1,180-1,475 USD) of the Code of Administrative Offences of Azerbaijan Republic.
Having disagreed with the decision, M. Ramazanov filed an appeal. However, the Judge of the Shaki Appeals Court, Rafail Aliyev, objected the claim.
In February, the police searched the house of a Baptist couple of Safgan and Gulnara Mammadovs’ residing in Qalaqayin village, Sabirabad district, in the south of Azerbaijan and confiscated 106 books and booklets, including the Bible and the New Testament, as well as the CDs with Christian songs.
On 10 April, the police Major Shohrat Salmanov from the Qalaqayin village police department drew up a report on the commission of the crime by a married couple of believers, stating that they kept religious books at home, which were distributed as New Year gifts on 31 December 2018. This was the basis for Safgan and Gulnara Mammadovs’ accusation of violating the Articles 451 and 515.0.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Azerbaijan Republic. Afterwards all the materials were sent to the court.
The Article 451 provides for the punishment of “the possession for the purpose of sale or distribution, shipment outside of production place, the sale or distribution in any other way of goods, products and information materials, which must have a control mark but haven’t obtained it”. The following goods, such as alcohol, tobacco and religious literature are subject to the State control, and fined of up to 5,000 manat (approximately 2,950 USD), for individuals, for violation of this article. The Article 515.0.3 provides for the punishment of “clergymen and members of religious associations holding special meetings for children and youth, as well as organizing or conducting of organized labor, reading or other clubs and groups activities not related to religious ceremonies” with a fine of 1,500 to 2,000 manat whereas an average monthly salary is 585 manat.
On 16 April, the Judge Nuraddin Bagirov of the Sabirabad District Court presided the hearing at the trial concerning the cases against Sabirabad and Gulnara Mammadova. He found them both guilty of violating the Articles 451 and 515.0.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Azerbaijan and fined the spouses for the amount of 1,500 manat (approximately 885 USD) each, i.e. 3,000 manat (approximately 1,700 USD). This is a huge amount even for people working in the capital. And for the residents in the province it is hard to imagine!
One of the local Christians, familiar with the case of the Mammadovs’ spouses, told the Norwegian organization Forum 18 that “the court’s decision completely contradicts the laws of Azerbaijan and once again proves that the case was falsified and ordered by representatives of the State Committee”.