KESTON NEWS SERVICE, 20.00 9 November 2000

AZERBAIJAN: JUSTICE MINISTRY SAYS `LET THEM WAIT'. The failure
of Azerbaijan's Justice Ministry to convene a meeting of the ministry's board
for the past four months has held up the registration of up to twenty religious
organisations, despite a requirement in the country's religion law that the
ministry should register or reject registration within 15 days. The board�s head
told Keston, `Let them wait.'


AZERBAIJAN: JUSTICE MINISTRY SAYS `LET THEM WAIT'

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

The failure of Azerbaijan's Justice Ministry to convene a meeting of the
ministry's board for the past four months has held up the registration of up to
twenty religious organisations, despite a requirement in the country's religion
law that the ministry should register or reject registration within 15 days. The
head of the Justice Ministry's department for registering religious
organisations, Fazil Mamedov, told Keston News Service from Baku on 9
November that no date has yet been set for the next board meeting. Asked what
religious organisations should do in the absence of such a meeting, he declared:
`Let them wait.'

According to Vagif Salamov, a chief specialist at the government's Religious
Affairs Administration, which must approve registration applications before
they are presented to the Justice Ministry, the applications of some fifteen
Islamic communities and three Christian churches are awaiting consideration
by the board.

The Justice Ministry board has in the past convened relatively frequently,
allowing registration applications to be considered fairly quickly (although the
ministry has in the past often rejected applications for no valid reason).
Mamedov declined to say how often the board had met earlier but conceded
that it had not met since July and that in the absence of such a meeting no
religious organisations can gain registration. `A major legal reform is
underway,' he explained of the delay. `Everyone is busy with that. This is more
important than the registration of any one organisation.'

Salamov downplayed the importance of registration. `We're not stopping these
groups from meeting,' he told Keston from Baku on 9 November. `It's only a
question of juridical status.' He attributed the delay to the recent parliamentary
elections and the fact that there was a new justice minister (though he took
office months ago). `There are such periods when the board does not meet so
frequently.' He placed any blame for the delay on the Justice Ministry, stressing
that his office `had done all it is supposed to do' over the applications.

The three Christian organisations awaiting registration are the Baku Lutheran
parish, the Living Stones church in Baku and a congregation of the Greater
Grace church (see KNS 27 October 2000). Salamov told Keston that the
documentation is still in preparation for the registration applications of the
Baptist churches in Neftchala and Zakataly. (END)