Raids and inhumane treatment in Azerbaijan
BAKU, Azerbaijan—The police again raided a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, this time in the city of Gakh. The group met together for a religious meeting in the private home of Mrs. Tarana Khutsishvili, who is in the last month of her pregnancy and has two other children. Her husband, Elguja Khutsishvili, was deported from Azerbaijan on July 23, 2009.
On the afternoon of August 12, 2009, shortly after the meeting concluded, about nine men in police uniform and another four in civilian clothing burst into the Khutsishvili home, where 15 persons were gathered. The worshipers relate how the police burst in and announced that all the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Gakh is forbidden and then made a search of the house without showing any identification, finally insulting those present and accusing them of violating administrative law. The police said that each one would be fined 300 Manat ($357 US); they also threatened Mrs. Khutsishvili with imprisonment.
Four of the men and one woman who were present at the meeting in the Khutsishvili home were taken to the police station where they were insulted, questioned and put under pressure to sign documents admitting that they had violated the law. One man was hit in the face. Two young women, also Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had already left the Khutsishvili home before the police came, were also detained at the police station and not allowed to speak to anyone. After a few hours of detention, the policemen told the two women that they should pay a fine of 500 Manat ($595 US). All six persons were finally released late that night. It is unknown whether the authorities will actually demand that they pay the extraordinary fines.
Azerbaijan, a country of 8.5 million inhabitants, is a signatory to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Jehovah’s Witnesses are entitled to protection of freedom of religion under Articles 9, 10, and 11 of the Convention. The 850 Jehovah’s Witnesses striving to worship peacefully and to be productive members of the communities in which they live hope that the government of Azerbaijan will abide by its obligation to ensure freedom of worship.
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