At its meeting on Tuesday, the Parliament of Azerbaijan made amendments pertaining to criminal responsibility for sale and spread of illegal religious literature to the legislation of Azerbaijan.
The changes to the Penal Code were offered in compliance with the amendments to the Law "On the Freedom of Religious Belief", Ali Huseynli, Chairman of the Parliament's Legal Policy and Statehood Issues Committee, told the meeting.
Article 300 of the Code of Administrative Infringements of the Law is amended with provisions determining activity, which is considered a violation of the religious legal provisions.
Under the changes, sending citizens of the country to foreign religious educational institutions to study there, exchange of religious persons, and the conduct of religious rites by persons who have received religious education outside Azerbaijan shall be considered a violation of the religious legal provisions if it is not mutually accorded with a respective executive power body.
Sale of legally permitted religious literature and other productions outside specialized sale shops established by corresponding executive power bodies shall also be considered an infringement of the law if it is not agreed with the executive power.
Religious propaganda by foreigners or persons without citizenship shall also be considered illegal.
Under the changes and amendments, the Penal Code is added by Article 167-2 (production, import, sale and spread of religious literature and materials without special permission).
The Article envisions punishment in the form of either fine of 5,000 to 7,000 manat or two-year imprisonment. If commitment of such an action recurs, the punishment is either fine of 7,000 to 9,000 manat or imprisonment of 2 to 5 years.
Under another change, the sum of fine provided by Penal Code's Article 167 (prevention of performance of religious rites) is increased from 100-500 manat to 1,000-2,000 manat.
The sum of fine envisioned by Articles 167-1.1 and 167-1.2 (compulsion to performance of religious rites) is increased from 500-1,000 manat to 3,000-5,000 manat.
Besides, the sum of fine provided by Article 167-1.3 is increased from 1,000-2,000 manat to 7,000-9,000 manat.
Persons, who have no any education, carry out religious undertakings in Azerbaijan, MP Ganira Pashayeva told the discussion.
"One goes out of prison, another one can not get employed; however, they call themselves religious figures and conduct religious undertakings," Pashayeva said.
As viewed by her, this matter should be treated seriously. "They have no any education and carry out propaganda," Pashayeva noted.
She said the law must be changed to prohibit foreigners and persons without citizenship carrying out religious propaganda.
"Different religious sects and confessions expand their propaganda in Azerbaijan today. Measures should be tightened to prevent this," Pashayeva said.
All we are guilty that people with no education carry out religious ceremonies, said Parliament Speaker Oktay Asadov. "All we should invite religious persons from mosques and religious centers," he said.
He noted that population should ask educated people working for religious centers to perform rites.
Azerbaijan earlier faced the artificial problem of khijab wearing, MP Govhar Bakshaliyeva told the discussion. The state should act decisively in such cases, she noted.
"Broad enlightenment works should be done to help solve this problem," she said.
These changes are designed to defend the rights of believers in Azerbaijan, said MP Musa Gasymly.
"There are outside forces wishing to control religious issues in Azerbaijan. However, responsible for control of such issues in Azerbaijan are the Department of Caucasian Muslims and the State Committee for Work with Religious Entities," Gasymly said.
The offered changes and amendments are not directed against religion but are designed to prevent crimes, MP Chinghis Ganizadeh told the discussion.