April 27, 2012
About 100 shops that want to sell religious books and items are still waiting for the approval they need from Azerbaijan's State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations before they are legally allowed to sell them, Forum 18 News reports. The committee -- which operates Azerbaijan's harsh religious censorship system -- has only issued 16 such licenses since the system's introduction in 2009, and only one since November 2011. Selling religious books without a State Committee license is subject to a massive fine or imprisonment of up to two years for a first offense, and all religious literature published in or imported into the country is subject to strict compulsory prior censorship. It remains unclear how long the 100 vendors have been waiting for approval, or how the committee decides which to approve and which to reject, but 15 recent legal cases challenging the committee's censorship decisions have all failed.