Greek court postpones trial of Turkish minority's elected mufti

Jurists worried case against Ibrahim Serif intends to suppress Muslim Turkish minority in Greece

Ibrahim Serif. AA

H. J. I. / AA

A court in northern Greece has postponed the trial of a religious leader of the country's Muslim Turkish minority elected in defiance of Greek authorities who have sought to appoint the holder of post.

Ibrahim Serif, the elected mufti of Komotini (Gumulcine) in northeastern Greece, had been sued by Greek authorities in March 2018 on charges of usurping authority after he attended a circumcision ceremony in 2016 and was to stand trial on Thursday.

Serif's lawyer, Ercan Ahmet, and 11 other attorneys from the Istanbul-based International Jurists Union (UHUB) attended the trial in Thessaloniki, while the court announced that it would be postponed until Dec. 8 after a police officer who was to serve as the prosecution's witness did not show up.

UHUB's secretary general, senior legal expert Refik Korkusuz, has been following Serif's case and has stressed that it contradicts the rulings of the European Court of Human Right (ECHR).

- We expect Greek judicial authorities to respect the ECHR's decisions - he said, expressing worry that the case was intended to suppress the Muslim Turkish minority in Greece.

Yasin Sanli, the chair of the 2nd Istanbul Bar Association, on the other hand, underlined that such cases were in obvious violation of international treaties and basic rights.

Such cases are akin to threating Muslim Turkish minority in Greece, he remarked, while another lawyer who followed the case, Abubaker Siddiqe of the London Bar Association, agreed that the case opposes ECHR decisions.

Muftis in Greece

Serif was elected mufti of Komotini in 1990 by the local Muslim Turkish community.

Ahmet Mete, the current mufti of Xanthi (Iskece), and his predecessor Mehmet Emin Aga had also previously been convicted by Greek courts for usurping authority.

The Western Thrace region of Greece is home to a Muslim Turkish minority of around 150,000 people, where muftis have legal jurisdiction to decide on the family and inheritance matters in the local community.

The issue of mufti elections has been a long-standing problem for the group since 1991.

The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was regulated in the 1913 Treaty of Athens with the Ottoman Empire and was later included in Greek law.

However, Greece annulled this law in 1991 and started appointing muftis itself.

The majority of Muslim Turks in the cities of Komotini and Xanthi do not recognize the appointed muftis and instead elect their own, who are not recognized by the Greek state.