Georgian nationals deported from Azerbaijan
TBILISI, Georgia—Two Georgian nationals, Elguja Khutsishvili and Temur Aliev, were deported from Azerbaijan to Georgia on July 23, 2009, without receiving any documents to explain the reason for their deportation. Prior to their deportation both men, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, had their religious literature confiscated by police and state security agents.
On July 15, about eight men—from local police, including the deputy chief, as well as officers from the State Security Services—arrived at the home of Elguja Khutsishvili and demanded that he hand over “the weapons.” When Khutsishvili told them he did not have any weapons, he was told to hand over any religious literature. Then police entered the house and confiscated all the religious literature they could find. Police also took the passport of Khutsishvili’s wife as well as the passport of Khutsishvili’s brother, who lives nearby, and refused to return these documents. Elguja Khutsishvili was detained for eight days, during which time he was not allowed to see either his wife or a lawyer; he was then deported.
Khutsishvili is an ethnic Georgian who was born and raised in the city of Gakh in Azerbaijan. That is where he went to school and completed his term of military service prior to becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since his deportation, Khutsishvili remains in Georgia separated from his family, home and work in Azerbaijan. His wife, Tarana, is an Azeri citizen and is in the final month of her pregnancy; their other two children are now without their father.
Temur Aliev is an ethnic Azerbaijani who lives in Georgia and has a Georgian passport. He often travels to the city of Ganja in Azerbaijan and works there for a period of time selling watermelons. On July 13, a policeman came to his workplace and accused him of illegally doing business. Although he had all the necessary documents, he and his colleague were taken to the police station, where they were held in terrible conditions, insulted and not given food. Meanwhile, the police searched their residences and confiscated whatever religious literature they found there. Then Aliev was brought to immigration services in Baku and was detained there until his deportation on July 23, when he was flown to Georgia along with Elguja Khutsishvili.
Azerbaijan enjoyed significant religious freedom in the past, but recent trends show a steady decline. Article 48 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan maintains: “Everyone has the right to define his/her attitude to religion, to profess, individually or together with others, any religion . . . and spread one’s beliefs concerning religion.” Therefore, it is hoped that Elguja Khutsishvili will be allowed to return to Azerbaijan to be reunited (with his pregnant wife and their two children). This would be in harmony with Azerbaijan’s promise to abide by the European Convention, which includes the guarantees enshrined in Article 8 – Right to respect for a person’s private and family life, and in Article 9 – Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Contact in Belgium: Luca Toffoli, European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses
Telephone: +32 2 782 0015
Portable: +32 475 58 10 36
Contact in Britain: Paul Gillies, European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses
Telephone: +44 208 906 2211
Contacts in United States: J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information,
Telephone: (718) 560-5600
Gregory Allen, Associate General Counsel