Top court rejects appeal by expelled muftis

Top court rejects appeal by expelled muftis

Greece's top administrative court on Friday rejected as unfounded an appeal by two Muslim religious leaders from northern Greece against their compulsory retirement last year.

The case refers to a law presented by the ministry of education and approved by Parliament in August 2018 which set 67 as the maximum retirement age for the muftis – legal experts who are empowered to give rulings on religious matters – of Western Thrace. 

This meant that the then muftis, 81-year-old Mehmet Emin Sinikoglu and 78-year-old Cemali Meco had to step down.

They were to be replaced by temporary “observers” which would be appointed by the state for up to three years.

The plenum of the Council of State found that the provisions on the maximum retirement age “fall within the general retirement law for civil servants and officials and moreover corresponds to Article 88 paragraph 5 of the Constitution on the maximum retirement age for judges.”

The court also rejected the argument that the law violated Article 13 of the Constitution on religious freedom and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The muftis have also appealed to European Union judicial bodies.

Greece's Western Thrace is home to a Muslim minority of around 120,000 people. The law, passed by the previous SYRIZA government, was partly a consequence of its move to limit the powers of Sharia law in the region.

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