Thursday, October 30, 2008

Court date set for pastor accused of illegal possession of a weapon

Baptist pastor Hamid Shabanov is due in court in Zakatala, Azerbaijan, again on 31 October to face charges of illegal possession of a weapon. Church members insist the accusation is fabricated.

According to Forum 18, neither he nor his lawyer have been given the indictment as required in law.

Nor has there been any explanation of why Shabanov is still being held when the court-ordered detention period expired on 21 October, nor why the police did not bring him to the court for a scheduled hearing on 28 October.

"They are deliberately drawing this out as they don't want Shabanov to go to court," his lawyer Mirman Aliev told Forum 18 News Service. "They want to hold him for as long as they can."

He complained of the "crude violations" of the law. Shabanov's brother complains of the authorities' attempt to prosecute the second of the church's pastors.

"They want to imprison the leader and see the community fall apart."

Meanwhile, although the Abu-Bekr mosque community in Baku won its case in court challenging its enforced closure, it remains unclear when it will be allowed to reopen for prayers.

"We need a special instruction from the Interior Ministry before we can allow it to reopen," an official of the local police insisted to Forum 18.
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(Source: RI)

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