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Azerbaijan Accused Of Stifling Religious Freedom

Religious repression under Aliyev? 25 August 2004 -- A commission charged with advising the U.S. government says Azerbaijan has unleashed a wave of repression to consolidate control over Muslims and other churches and religions.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a statement yesterday that it is "deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation for religious freedom in Azerbaijan."

The commission says the incidents are part of what it calls a pattern over the past few years of tightening government control on Islamic practice and restrictions on the activities of minority religious communities, including Protestant Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Hare Krishnas.

Commission chair Preeta Bansal said the Azerbaijani government is "clearly moving in the wrong direction with respect to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief in Azerbaijan."