Azerbaijan (MNN/SGA) — Authorities
in Azerbaijan have opened a new investigation into the June arrest of pastor
Hamid Shabanov (shu-BAH-nov).
He was charged with having an
illegal weapon following a police raid on his house in the village of Aliabad.
Church leaders insist that the charges are false and were trumped up because
of opposition to evangelical churches in the town and region.
Slavic Gospel Association says the court extended his detention until October 22. However, "Pastor Shabanov's attorneys have been
able to meet with local police officials there and get some promises for more
humane conditions while Hamid is in jail. [They're also hoping] for a more objective
investigation into the case. They're
just hopeful that this investigation would maybe yield a better result and
that Hamid would eventually be freed."
Shabanov was reassigned to the
neighboring region of Balakansky, where there are hopes for a more objective
investigation of the case. All the witnesses are being questioned again, both
prosecution and defense witnesses.
Rev. Ilya Zenchenko, president
of Azerbaijan Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, is rallying the
troops. Griffith says, "It seems
like there is a relative silence coming from the international community, so
he's asking to not only raise this issue in prayer, but also to just express
that the Azerbaijan government needs to allow religious freedom and release
this pastor from jail."
Although their work is not
extensive there, SGA serves the church through pastoral training, church
planter sponsorship and Christian literature. SGA also represents the Russian UECB and is a
sponsor of the Eurasian Federation of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Click here if you can help.