Azebaijan - Authorities raided a Baptist house church in Gyanja, Azerbaijan July 13, confiscating all religious literature that they could find, including Bibles, hymnals, and copies of the Baptist Russian-language periodical Vestnik Istiny (Herald of Truth). The police interrupted the service during the sermon and declared the gathering to be illegal because it was not a registered church. The congregation belongs to the International Council of Evangelical Christian/Baptist Churches, which rejects registration with the state on principal in all of the former Soviet republics where they are found.
Of the dozen members of the congregation, they also singled out two ethic Azeris - church leader Zaur Ismailov and Magomet Musayev - arresting, interrogating, and fining them the equivalent of $13 and $33 U.S. dollars respectively.
Azeris are traditionally Muslim, explaining why these two brethren received harsher treatment. Islamic law calls for severe punishment of apostates (converts from Islam), even death. This tradition is upheld and taught by most Muslim leaders around the world today. In countries like Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, the death penalty for conversion from Islam is actually the law of the state. Although the government of Azerbaijan does not technically have such a law, converts are still actively harassed by police to try and force them back to Islam.