Pastor still jailed in Azerbaijan

By August 4, 2008

Azerbaijan (MNN) — A Baptist pastor remains jailed today despite not being convicted. According to Forum 18 News, the judge in the criminal trial of Baptist pastor Hamid Shabanov has not yet convicted him.

Defense attorney Mirman Aliev called for Shabanov to be acquitted, for an end to the criminal case and for him to be freed. However, the judge was afraid to grant these requests and instead sent the case back for further investigation.

Aliev says the judge ordered the re-investigation to be complete by 23 August and be ready for a new trial.

Pastor Shabonov was arrested and charged with having an illegal weapon. Shabanov's congregation and his family insist that the Nagan pistol a Prosecutor's Office official claims to have found, during the 20 June house search, was planted. Shabanov was arrested immediately after the alleged discovery.

After the trial, Zakatala Deputy Police Chief Kamandar Hasanov accused the head of the Baptist Union, Ilya Zenchenko, of being "an English spy who acts only for money." Hasanov claimed that there is "a special instruction not to allow Baptists to function in Zakatala District."

Defense lawyer Aliev complained of "numerous, gross violations of procedure" including forged documents, with alleged interrogations of Shabanov on days when no interrogations took place.
Police have also wrongly claimed that copies of the Bible in Azeri and Georgian are "illegal."

Pray that God will soften the hearts of those involved with the case. Pray that Shabanov's testimony will be what God uses to draw them to Himself. In the meantime, also pray that God would grant boldness to the rest of the congregation.

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