Court gives cremation go-ahead

A new law that would allow cremation to take place in Greece for the first time in the country's history was approved yesterday by the Council of State, Greece's highest administrative court. MPs approved the law in March 2006 and yesterday's decision effectively paves the way for cremation facilities to be built in Greece. According to the presidential decree, families can cremate their dead by obtaining a permit from the local mayor or community leader 60 hours after the death of their relative. The law stipulates that the deceased has to leave a written request asking to be cremated, otherwise a relative up to the fourth degree must confirm that this was the person's choice. The new regulations permit the cremation of people who request this method instead of burial as long as their religion also allows it. The law still forbids the act for Orthodox Christians. The Church of Greece opposes cremation for believers, arguing that Orthodox traditions only allow for burial. The previous law also banned cremation for other faiths. This made matters particularly difficult for Muslims in Greece who had to send their dead abroad to be cremated. Under the new law, relatives up to four times removed from the deceased in the family tree can request cremation. If there is a disagreement among family members, then the matter will be settled by a prosecutor. The Council of State said that an amendment should be made so that if people who are not relatives have evidence that the deceased preferred to be cremated but the relatives do not want cremation, a prosecutor should investigate and take the final decision. The court also said that some stipulation had to be made for cases where parents disagree over whether an underage child should be cremated. It also said that the law needs to ban urns that contain ashes from becoming «an object of business transactions.» Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said last year that the first crematorium in Greece will be located in the city's First Cemetery. Many Greeks are in favor of cremation, as a lot of the country's graveyards have reached capacity, but the Church of Greece's rigid stance against Orthodox Christians being cremated means that there are unlikely to be any changes to the current situation.