When police detain Jehovah's Witnesses on the street as they share their faith with others, they often seize any religious literature they find. Jehovah's Witnesses note 17 such detentions between September 2018 and August 2019 in Baku and eight other cities or towns. Two police officers who detained a Jehovah's Witness on the streets of the north-eastern town of Khachmaz in February 2019 forcibly took him to the police station, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. A State Committee official asked him why he was talking about the Bible and not the Koran. Officers seized his religious literature, threatened to have him fined, held him for 12 hours without food or water, mocked his beliefs, forced him to write two statements and then freed him. During his detention, one police officer threatened to beat him. During raids on Jehovah's Witness meetings in homes, police often check whether religious publications have the required sticker from the State Committee showing that they have undergone the state religious censorship. On 23 June, three police officers in the north-western town of Mingachevir tried to search the home of a Jehovah's Witness where other Jehovah's Witnesses had gathered. They took the names of those present, but when they tried to search the home without a warrant the home owner refused to allow it. The officers left, saying they would return with a warrant. They did not return, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. On 4 June, Shirvan Appeal Court rejected the appeals of both a husband and wife against massive fines for having religious literature and holding a New Year meeting for children without state permission. (http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2487) A local court had fined Baptist couple Safqan and Gulnar Mammadov each more than three months' average wages for those in formal work. Challenging state bans In February 2018, the State Committee imposed the pre-publication ban on the publication and distribution in Azerbaijan of Muslim theologian Elshad Miri's book "Things Not Existing in Islam". (http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2351) The book covers seven of what Miri regards as myths about what Islam teaches. Chapters include "There is no magic in Islam" and "There is no child marriage in Islam". The State Committee banned Miri's book because a State Committee official disagreed with the book theologically. Replying, Miri told the State Committee that "it is not correct to ban a book I wrote in a country which does not [officially] have censorship". Miri has been seeking to overturn the State Committee's ban on his book through the courts. On 25 June 2019, Azerbaijan's Supreme Court rejected his appeal against the state. (http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2490) Miri is now preparing a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. The case is expected to be lodged in October, his lawyer Khalid Agaliyev told Forum 18 from Baku on 27 September. Jehovah's Witnesses say the State Committee has not banned the import of any of their publications since November 2015 and has not restricted the sale of control stickers. Jehovah's Witnesses have lodged four cases to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over earlier state bans on importing their publications (http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2490) and one complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Muslims who read the works of the late Turkish Muslim theologian Said Nursi also lodged a case to the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 over state censorship of religious literature (http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2490) after police seized books in a raid. That case too is still pending.
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