Turkey criticizes Greece for convicting Muslim clerics
Ahmet Mete, the elected mufti of the city of Xanthi (İskeçe) in northern Greece and Erkan Azizoğlu, the imam of the nearby village of Glafki (Gökçepınar), were each sentenced to seven months in prison by a court in Thessaloniki on Nov. 13 for disturbing a religious ceremony and usurping authority.
Mete and Azizoğlu were convicted over an incident at the funeral ceremony of a conscript soldier last year, who was a member of the Muslim Turkish minority and had lost his life in a swimming accident while on duty. Mete had taken over the prayer service from the state-appointed mufti of Xanthi.
Speaking at an event in Istanbul, Bozdağ slammed Greece for not letting a Muslim be buried in accordance with his religious beliefs by a mufti elected by the local community instead of one appointed by the state.
He said this was against the Lausanne Treaty. “Where is freedom of religion and conscience?” he asked.
Bozdağ said the family of the dead soldier had wanted Mete to head the funeral prayer.
“They [Greek authorities] breached the Lausanne Treaty, and ignored the elected mufti and appointed their own. The religion preached by that [appointed] mufti is the religion told by the Greek government, not the religion of the Quran and Prophet [Muhammad],” he said.
The two clerics’ prison sentences have been suspended, and they could be jailed if they commit another crime in three years.
Mete said that the conviction was a “medal of honor” for them.
“We will continue our struggle whatever the outcome may be. We will go to higher courts if necessary,” he said.
A Greek lawmaker of Turkish-origin from the Democratic Alignment party, İlhan Ahmet called Mete’s conviction “illegal.”
“I do not understand what crime Mete has been convicted of. The Greek state must respect the minority’s preferences regarding the chronic mufti issue,” Ahmet said.
İbrahim Şerif, who is the elected mufti of Komotini (Gümülçine) city and head of the Western Thrace Turkish Minority Advisory Board, criticized Greek authorities’ ongoing negative attitude in this regard.
“The locals openly say they do not want the appointed muftis. We expect Greece to recognize the religious leaders elected by the Muslim Turkish minority,” he said.
Şerif, like Mete, was also previously convicted for usurping authority. He later appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which made a decision in his favor and found Greece guilty.