Press Monitoring

AZERBAIJAN: Five years' jail for leading worship?  3.13.2017

By Felix Corley, Forum 18

In the first known use of punishments on foreign-educated Muslims for leading worship, Shia Imam Sardar Babayev faces up to five years' imprisonment if convicted. Educated in Iran, he led Friday prayers at a Masalli mosque. Arrested on 22 February, he is in pre-trial detention.

Shia Imam Sardar Babayev, arrested in the southern Masalli District on 22 February, faces up to five years' imprisonment if convicted. He is accused of leading worship after having gained his theological education outside Azerbaijan. This criminal punishment applies only to Muslims, not to members of other faiths. It remains unknown when Imam Babayev will face trial.

This is believed to be the first time any Muslim who gained religious education outside Azerbaijan has been prosecuted under Criminal Code punishments introduced in December 2015 (see below).