Muslim Religious Leader in Greece Sentenced for Praying

Pilgrims walk outside Kirmahalle Cammi mosque in the northeastern Greek town of Komotini. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos, File)

KOMOTINI- An elected Muslim religious leader in Greece’s Western Thrace region was given 80 days of prison sentence for usurping authority – saying it was for taking part in a Friday prayer in one of the villages of Evros province in March 2016, with no explanation why he was tried only now.

Ibrahim Serif is the elected mufti of Komotini which is one of the three major cities of the Western Thrace region in Greece, home to a Muslim-Turkish minority of around 150,000 people, said the Turkish Anadolu News Agency in a report.

Serif tweeted that he was convicted by a court in Alexandroupoli and also shared a copy of the court summons while his lawyer has appealed. He won a case in 1999 over the same charge afte appealing to the European Court of Human Rights but it wasn’t said why he was tried again.

He was elected mufti of Komotini in 1990 by the local Muslim-Turkish community, giving him jurisdiction jurisdiction to decide on family and inheritance matters of local Muslims.

The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was regulated in the 1913 Treaty of Athens between Greece and the Ottoman Empire but Greece annulled the law in 1991 and said the state, not the Muslim community, would name the muftis, which has been contentious since.

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

A visit from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Athens and the Muslim area of northern Greece in December, 2017 moved Greece’s then-Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras to consider changing the appointment system but it hasn’t yet.