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GREECE: Top court rules against ritual slaughter, despite EU’s Court of Justice

Greece’s top court rules against ritual slaughter, following recent EU decision upholding bans

BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ

 

JTA (27.10.2021) – https://bit.ly/3jPkmvL – The highest court in Greece has ruled against allowing ritual slaughter, fulfilling fears that some Jewish leaders voiced last year after the European Union’s top court ruled in support of such bans.

 

Last December, the EU’s highest court upheld the bans imposed in regions of Belgium against slaughtering animals for meat without stunning them first. The ruling meant that slaughter in accordance with Jewish law, which requires animals be conscious when their necks are cut, would be prohibited in those regions, as it is in some other parts of Europe.

 

Greece’s top court did not cite that ruling in its decision Tuesday on a petition filed by the Panhellenic Animal Welfare and Environmental Federation, according to the Greek news site Protothema. But Jewish watchdogs who have been monitoring bans on ritual slaughter across the European continent said the connection was undeniable.

 

“We warned in December about the downstream consequences that the European Court of Justice ruling carried with it, and now we see the outcome,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association. “Jewish freedom of religion is under direct attack. It started in Belgium, moved to Poland and Cyprus and now it is Greece’s turn.”

 

In 2011, the Netherlands briefly joined several EU countries where ritual slaughter is illegal, including Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Slovenia. The Dutch Senate reversed the ban in 2012, citing freedom of worship. Poland also outlawed the practice in 2013 but has since scaled back the ban to include only meat for export.

 

The bans on kosher slaughter, or shechitah, are part of a struggle across Europe between animal welfare activists and Muslim and Jewish community representatives. In recent years, anti-immigration activists and politicians who are unhappy about the immigration of Muslims in Europe have joined the debate A similar fight is unfolding around nonmedical circumcision of boys, or brit milah in Jewish tradition.

 

The Greek court said there should be ways to meet the demands of animal rights advocates and the needs of Jews and Muslims who follow the laws about food in their traditions.

 

“The government should regulate the issue of slaughtering animals in the context of worship in such a way as to ensure both the protection of animals from any inconvenience during slaughter and the religious freedom of religious Muslims and Jews living in Greece,” the court said, according to Protothema.

 

 

Photo : Rabbi Jacob Werchow presents geese slaughtered by his team on Csengele, Hungary on Sept. 29, 2021. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

Further reading about FORB in Greece on HRWF website





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GREECE: Elected Mufti of Rodopi Ibrahim Şerif to stand trial for ‘usurpation of office’

Elected Mufti of Rodopi Ibrahim Şerif to stand trial on charges of ‘usurpation of office’

ABTTF (03.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/2XQ2OYn – ABTTF President: ‘The fact that the mufti elected by our community is brought before the court on charges of usurpation of office is actually a means of the policy of fear and intimidation against our community, we all know that’. 

 

Elected Mufti of Rodopi Ibrahim Şerif will stand trial at the Thessaloniki Court of First Instance on charges of usurpation of office as part of an investigation into his participation in a mass circumcision ceremony for children belonging to the Turkish community in Western Thrace in Komotini’s (Gümülcine) Alankuyu neighbourhood in 2016.

Regarding the case to be discussed on 7 October  2021, Mufti Ibrahim Şerif indicated the following on his social media account: ‘We have been invited to the Thessaloniki Court of First Instance on 7-10 October 2021 to stand trial as regards our participation to the mass circumcision organised by our brothers from Alankuyu on grounds of usurpation of office’.

Halit Habip Oğlu, President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) made the following statement: ‘The fact that our Elected Mufti of Rodopi Ibrahim Şerif has been brought to court as a result of his participation to the mass circumcision ceremony in Alankuyu in 2016 on grounds of alleged usurpation of office is against freedom of religion or belief. Indeed, our Mufti was repeatedly called to testify on the orders of the prosecutor’s office under various pretexts in 2017, one of the investigations opened was related to his participation in the mass circumcision ceremony in Alankuyu in 2016. In addition to the fact that the state has taken away our right to choose our own religious leaders in violation of the 1913 Treaty of Athens and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the summoning and trial of the mufti elected by our community as part of the investigation into the usurpation of office is actually a means of the policy of fear and intimidation against our community, we all know this. As ABTTF, we have repeatedly stated this at the international level, and we will continue to do so. We stand with our mufti Ibrahim Şerif, and we will continue our efforts at the international level as we follow the case’.

 

Photo: gundemgazetesi.com

Further reading about FORB in Greece on HRWF website





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GREECE: Astronomical fine for mosque in Turkish village

Astronomical fine for mosque in Turkish village in Greece!

ABTTF (03.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/3kyySIM – ABTTF President: ‘It is absolutely impossible to say that the astronomical fine imposed on the village trustees for allegedly converting the old school building into a mosque in the Turkish village of ten households Mikra Tímbanon (Küçük Davutlu) is proportionate. We hope that the authorities will respond positively to the appeal of the village trustees appeal and cancel the astronomical fine that has been issued’. 

 

A fine of about €104,000 has been issued to the mosque in the Turkish village of Mikra Tímbanon (Küçük Davutlu) in the Western Thrace region of Greece.

According to the report from Gündem newspaper, the trustees of the village were fined about €104,000 for allegedly converting the old school building on the same estate as the mosque into a mosque and building minarets and an unauthorised pergola for the mosque.

Ahmet Kara, the lawyer of the Mikra Tímbanon (Küçük Davutlu) board of trustees, one of the least populated Turkish villages in the province of Xanthi, told Gündem that there is absolutely no question of converting the school building into a mosque, adding that the appeal will be submitted to the relevant authority following the completion of the work required with the engineer.

Halit Habip Oğlu, President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) made the following statement: ‘It is absolutely impossible to say that the astronomical fine imposed on the village trustees for allegedly converting the old school building into a mosque in the village of ten households Mikra Tímbanon (Küçük Davutlu) where Western Thrace Turks live is proportionate. There’s no way the board of trustees can pay such a fine. Furthermore, as the lawyer of the board of trustees has stated, the allegation is untrue. Indeed, despite the claim that the purpose for the two-storey school was altered and converted into a mosque, there is no proof made in this respect by entering the building. That’s why there’s a malicious intention here! We hope that the authorities will respond positively to the appeal of the village trustees and cancel the astronomical fine that has been issued’.

Photo : « The villagers were fined a high amount on the grounds that the mosque in the Küçükdavutlu village of Xanthi was expanded by illegal construction on its land ». milletnews.com

Further reading about FORB in Greece on HRWF website





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GREECE: Greek Court recognises Atheism as ground for asylum

Atheist Alliance International (07.05.2021) – https://bit.ly/3ft8P3l – Ali (not his real name), was born to a Sunni Muslim family in Pakistan. He grew up a practicing Muslim but, in 2015, horrified and repulsed by the Taliban’s atrocities against innocents, he left Islam and identified as an atheist.

He made his atheistic views known on social media and became an active member of the Atheist and Agnostic Alliance of Pakistan, an AAI affiliate that is fighting for the rights of non-believers in Pakistan.

In 2017, the Pakistan Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided Ali’s house to arrest him. Although Pakistan does not have a law against apostasy, it does provide the death penalty for blasphemy and the two offenses are easily conflated in the minds of hyper-religious members of the judiciary and the individuals who are inclined to take the law into their own hands.

Fortunately, he was not at home, so the FIA officers confiscated his laptop computer and passport. They even took his motorbike. Knowing the fate of people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan (they have been killed in jails and courtrooms, and student Mashal Khan had recently been killed by a mob in the street), Ali had no option but to flee to Europe.

He sought help from AAI’s affiliate the Atheist Union of Greece (AUG) to apply to the Greek authorities for asylum. After being rejected twice, AUG helped him appeal to a Greek Administrative Court to annul the second decision and ask the court to order temporary judicial protection pending a ruling on his application for annulment. Humanists International helped as well.

In February last year, the Court held that, in the event of his deportation from Greece, there would be a high risk of arrest and irreparable harm by the authorities in Pakistan or by fanatical Islamists. Accordingly, the Court annulled the Asylum Services’ decision to deny Ali’s asylum application and ordered the Government to provide him temporary international protection until the final judgment of the Court has been delivered.

Τhe Court took note of documents that were provided by our two affiliates to prove Ali’s atheism. The Atheist Union of Greece argued, in a press release , that international protection should have been provided to the applicant from the very first time he presented his case to the State.

We are delighted to report that last March the Administrative Court issued its final judgment on this case. The Court granted Ali asylum in Greece and this week he was given his residence permit / ID card.

This is the first final judgement of the Greek judiciary, and we believe, one of the first in the world, that recognizes atheism as a ground for the vulnerability of a citizen of a fundamentalist religious state. This is an important case! It can now be argued, in Europe at least, that atheists are at special risk in some Islamic countries and, consequently, need to be protected. [A legal summary of the case by the attorney that handled it (Vasilis Sotiropoulos) can be found here in Greek, translated below.]

We send our warm congratulations to Ali and our heartfelt thanks to our affiliates, the Atheist and Agnostic Alliance of Pakistan and the Atheist Union of Greece.

 

Legal Summary (Translation from Greek)

Our office successfully represented a refugee before the First Instance Administrative Court of Thessaloniki, which issued an irrevocable decision, recognizing atheism as a reason for vulnerability that allows the provision of asylum to refugees.

In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan atheism is punishable (as a blasphemy) by the death penalty. The few citizens who dare to declare publicly that they do not belong to the official state religion are persecuted by local authorities, imprisoned or even murdered.

The refugee we represented in Court had been examined by the Greek asylum committees and his request had been deemed unfounded. In particular, both the primary and the secondary committee had deemed his testimony unreliable, considering that his atheism was not an integral part of his personality, as well as in completely secondary parts of it, such as how he was identified by the prosecuting authorities of his country. With these two rejections, the refugee was in danger of being deported and facing a charge punishable by death for his conscientious choices and beliefs.

The three-member First Instance Administrative Court of Thessaloniki issued its final decision, which became irrevocable and under which the refugee finally received asylum from the Hellenic Republic, i.e. international protection due to vulnerability. The Court applied the 1951 Geneva Convention, as amended by the 1968 New York Protocol, which states that the concept of refugee applies to any person “ who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” .

The Court concludes that from the Geneva Convention “it is inferred that the foreigner, who wishes to be subject to the special protection regime of this Convention, must report to the Administration, with elementary clarity, the specific facts that cause him, to an objectively justified way, fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, social class or political beliefs (see CoS 633/2013, 4750/2012, 4565–6 / 2012, 4544/2012, 2904/2012, 2763/2012, 1303/2012 etc.). Moreover, the article 4 par. 5 of PD 141/2013 stipulates that the data of the statements of the applicant for international protection, even when they are not documented with documents or other evidence, do not need confirmation, if he has made a real effort to document, has submitted all relevant information available, and has given a satisfactory explanation for any lack of other relevant information, his statements are consistent and plausible and do not contradict available specific and general information relevant to his case, he requested international protection as soon as possible (unless he gave a valid reason which prevented him from doing so) and his general credibility is well-founded, while, in any case, the benefit of doubt applies. However, the above provision does not remove the obligation of the interested party to invoke certain specific facts capable of proving the conditions of his inclusion in the aforementioned protection regime (CoS. 1303/2012, 1078/2012, 3463–5/2011, 3459/2011, 2911–3/2011, 2640/2011, 2591–2 / 2011 etc.). In view of the nature and importance of the goods at stake, in the event of forced return of the applicant for international protection foreigner to his country of origin, it is necessary, in the context of the evaluation of his application on an individual basis, to thoroughly examine his substantive allegations and the specific and complete reasoning of any potential rejection of his request (cf. CoS 1303/2012, 1078/2012, 2512/2011, 1379/2011, 4154/2009, 3726/2009, 2534/2009, 817/2009, 1628/2007). “

The refugee in this case had proved his atheism, citing a certificate of participation in the Association of Atheists and Agnostics of Pakistan, publications about the blocking of his accounts on FACEBOOK due to “blasphemous content” and invoked a Pakistani Court ruling that had ordered his arrest. The refugee referred to the raiding of Pakistani authorities to the homes of atheist friends of him who conspired to warn him to escape, while an operation had already been launched to arrest him. Following the arrest of his friends, he decided to leave the country to escape persecution.

With the initial decision of the Regional Asylum Office of Thessaloniki, the request was rejected as unfounded, on the grounds that, on the one hand atheists sentenced to death are not executed by the authorities and on the other that the atheism of this refugee “is not essential and is not an integral part of his personality and his identity, while, his profile as an amateur internet user does not place him in a high-risk profile to attract the interest of the Pakistani authorities, and that his claim of persecution by the authorities of his country, because of his apostasy from Islam and his beliefs about atheism, relied solely on his own conjectures and, therefore, that the applicant did not have a well-founded and justified fear of persecution because of his religious beliefs and could not be granted refugee status.” The applicant appealed to the Appeals Authority of the Ministry of Civil Protection against the initial rejection.

The Appeals Authority considered unreliable the allegations of the applicant as to why he had left his country of origin and did not wish to return to it and, in particular, his allegations that he had left his country of origin because he had been targeted and wanted by the authorities because of his atheistic beliefs, due to “ambiguities, vagueness and contradictions”, which affected their internal coherence. His answers regarding his FACEBOOK account were considered contradictory and his answer to the question how the local authorities located him was unsatisfactory and his testimony about how he was notified and escaped from the prosecution was not plausible.

The First Instance Administrative Court of Thessaloniki annulled the above decision, considering the application for annulment of the applicant refugee accepted, mainly because his atheism was challenged without a legal reason by the Greek authorities. The Court held that “the above allegation of unlawful reasoning of the contested decision, in so far as it rejected the applicant’s allegations of his atheistic beliefs, is well founded, because the contested decision was rejected on unreasonable grounds, as generalistic, vague and not based on personal experiences. In particular: a) the reasoning of the contested decision that the applicant provided only a general definition of the concept of atheism, without citing experiential elements of his daily life regarding his own acceptance of his personal position of not believing in any religion, it is not legitimate because the Commission did not take into account that the applicant, in his personal interview, did mention on the one hand specific situations and specific experiences that led him to the relevant choice, on the other hand did mention specific personal circumstances of his daily life, related to his atheistic beliefs. In particular, the applicant stated that one of the main reasons for his choice to become an atheist was the occurrence of religious violence in his country of origin (in particular, he stated that there are “many terrorists in Pakistan who destroy humanity through religion” ), while citing a specific incident that took place in 2014 in the city of Pesawhar, in which extremist Muslims (Taliban) had invaded a school and killed about 135 children (an incident which was verified as true during the investigation carried out by the Asylum Service), stating at the same time that this incident made him wonder “how a religion can allow innocent souls to be killed without having done anything wrong” . Furthermore, the applicant referred to specific personal circumstances of his daily life, related to his atheistic beliefs, such as his non-participation in Muslim worship and in particular in Friday prayers, meetings and discussions with like-minded people in parks and hotels in Karachi and his posts on social media against the Muslim religion (in particular, he stated that he had made posts against jihadism, which, in his view, is permitted by Islam, and in posts about his opinion that is not acceptable for someone to follow “the footsteps of a Prophet who had performed 11 marriages and at worst, one marriage with a six-year-old” ), and b) the reasoning of the contested decision that the applicant claimed to have become an atheist after studying the Quran and other religions, but without giving any example or even reference to the comparative study of other religions that led him to acceptance of atheism, and that in his social media posts he had limited himself to criticism of Islam, is not legal because the Commission did not take into account that the applicant, in his personal interview, explained the reason for his rejection of all religions and in particular stated that, in his opinion, all religions are man-made (in particular he stated that “all these books are written by men” ), while the mere fact that he did not mention any other religion than Islam, a religion which he has studied and rejected, is not sufficient to legitimately justify the Commission’s judgment on the vagueness of his claim, given that he had not been asked any clarifying question in that regard. Furthermore, the Court considers that the applicant’s statement that he had criticized Islam in his social media posts could not legitimately justify the Commission’s judgment that his allegation of atheism was vague, given that it was reasonable for him to criticize primarily the prevailing religion in his country and not other religions. Finally, the Court emphasizes that, in assessing the validity of the international protection applicant’s fear that he will be persecuted, it is irrelevant whether he is in fact or to a certain extent characterized by the religious element which causes or is likely to cause persecution (in this case by atheism), provided that this characteristic is attributed to him by the body of the persecution, according to the explicitly defined in article 10 par.2 of PD 141/2013.”

Furthermore, the Court annulled the allegations of the Greek authorities that his allegations were allegedly not plausible and clear, with a complete re-examination of the information provided by the applicant. The Court ordered the reimbursement of the fee (EUR 150) and court costs (EUR 405) to the applicant. Earlier, the same Court had given an interim injunction and suspended the execution of the contested decision, so that the refugee would not be deported until the final court decision was issued.

Photo : Atheist Alliance International





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Greek parliament elects country’s first female president

MPs overwhelmingly back Katerina Sakellaropoulou’s appointment with PM hailing it as ‘a window to the future.’

 

By Helena Smith

The Guardian (22.01.2020) – https://bit.ly/2RAr7Ue – A high court judge and ardent human rights advocate has been elected Greece’s first female president in a historic vote by parliament.

 

Inaugurating a new era for one of Europe’s more traditional nations, MPs overwhelmingly endorsed the nomination of Katerina Sakellaropoulou as head of state. No woman has held the post in the nearly 200 years since Greece proclaimed independence. “Today a window to the future has opened,” said the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, after 261 deputies in the 300-seat House voted in favour of the French-educated jurist assuming the role. “Our country enters the third decade of the 21st century with more optimism.”

 

The election – less than a week after the centre-right leader proposed Sakellaropoulou – not only breaks with tradition in an EU state where few women hold political positions but has taken many in Mitsotakis’ own New Democracy party aback.

 

The 63-year-old, who first made history fifteen months ago when she was elevated to the helm of the highest court in the land by the leftist administration then in power, holds liberal views with an emphasis on environmental protection. But with no known party allegiance she is a political outsider.

 

The diminutive Sakellaropoulou cut a defiantly modernist figure as she officially accepted her appointment by a cross-party group of mostly male MPs headed by the president of the parliament in her office on Wednesday. Signalling her determination to act as a moral compass in a society often riven by political division, and singling out the climate emergency among the global challenges facing the country, she told the delegation: “I look forward to a society which respects rights … heals the wounds of the past and looks with optimism at the future.”

 

Her election was immediately applauded by the EU commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, in a tweet praising Greece for “moving ahead into a new era of equality”.

 

An expert in environmental and constitutional law, Sakellaropoulou will take the oath of office on 13 March, when she will formally succeed Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a former conservative minister who has held the largely ceremonial position for the past five years.

 

Raised in Thessaloniki, Greece’s northern metropolis, she is the daughter of a supreme court judge and lives in a part of central Athens eschewed by most politicians.

 

Worldly and well read, her career has been defined at the vanguard of a minority of jurists unafraid to clash with prevailing sentiment in pursuit of the rule of law. Despite nationalist frenzy two decades ago she stood her ground as a leading proponent of removing religious affiliation from civilian identity cards, a reform demanded by the EU but vigorously opposed at the time by conservatives and the country’s powerful Orthodox church. In a nation on the forefront of the refugee crisis, Sakellaropoulou has also supported citizenship being granted to migrant children.

 

As Greece enters 2020 after a decade of battling its worst economic crisis in modern times, the appointment of a woman to the country’s highest office has raised hopes that a new page is finally being turned.

 

Greek female MPs voiced optimism that the president-elect could serve as a role model to younger generations in a nation still getting to grips with the idea of gender equality.

 

A mere five women currently hold cabinet positions – a scarcity that earned Mitsotakis wide criticism when his government assumed power in July.

 

Despite protests from some in the opposition that Sakellaropoulou lacked political clout, the rare consensus with which MPs supported her nomination in the first round of what could have been a five-round vote buttressed optimism on Wednesday.

 

In the past the failure of parliament to elect a president had frequently fuelled dissent, triggering early elections that have spurred further political tumult.


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