On 9 January, Greater Grace Protestant Church in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku lost its final appeal against closure. This means that any further religious activity carried out by the church is now considered illegal according to the recent Supreme Court ruling. Unfortunately, those representing the congregation no longer have any more options available to further challenge this ruling through the court system.
During the brief hearing, the appointed judge disregarded the church’s appeal against an earlier court order that mandated its closure for violating the 2009 Religion Law. This harsh law requires that all religious communities re-register, including those previously registered through the Justice Ministry. Without state permission, such operations are considered illegal and, therefore, fined accordingly. (Fines for violations against the Religion Law have increased dramatically since 2010.) The outcome of this case now sets a worrying legal precedent for other Christian churches in Azerbaijan. Sources: Forum 18, Release International