Greece sentences elected Muslim official to imprisonment
An elected Muslim official in Greece's Western Thrace has been sentenced to 15 months in prison by a Greek court on Thursday, in what many say is an attempt to suppress the country's ethnic Turkish minority.
Ahmet Mete, Xanthi's Muslim cleric or 'mufti', was charged with "disrupting public order by sowing public discord" by a criminal court in Thessaloniki.
He received a three-year deferment of the sentence, which may see him imprisoned if he is charge with another crime during the three-year period.
Mete will appeal the ruling, a statement released by the Xanthi mufti's office said.
Turkey slammed the sentence as "another manifestation of the legal pressure and intimidation policies by Greece against the Western Thrace Turkish Minority's elected Muftis by their own will".
Legal proceedings were carried out on "baseless accusations" against muftis, which aim to "prevent the aforementioned individuals from carrying out their religious and social duties freely", a statement by Turkey’s foreign ministry said, citing comments made by the European Court of Human Rights on Athens and its continued violations against Muslim officials in Greece.
Xanthi, a city in the region of Western Thrace, northeastern Greece, has a large population of Turkish-speaking Muslims dating back to the Ottoman period.
The community there has been electing their own muftis since the early 20th century, under a Greek-Ottoman pact known as the 1913 Treaty of Athens.
In 1991, Greece annulled the law and began appointing muftis itself. Muslim clerics appointed by the state usurped Islamic rulings on family and inheritance matters. Subsequently, the majority of Muslim Turks in the area rejected the jurisdiction of muftis appointed by the Greek state and have instead elected their own.
Greek authorities have refused to recognise elected muftis and authorities have put clerics on trial.
International rights group have slammed the Greek government's attitude towards its Turkish minority, saying Athens views them as "an outside threat that must be minimised or isolated".