Justice Minister Kosta Tsiaras announced on Tuesday he will withdraw a controversial provision that would re-establish blasphemy as a crime punishable by up to two years sin prison, citing reactions to the proposed legislation.
The minister has announced a series of amendments to the new penal code that was approved by Greece’s Parliament in July this year.
Speaking to television channel SKAI, Tsiaras said the provision is aimed at “protecting the rights of religious minorities” following the tensions created by local communities around Greece against the housing of migrants and refugees who were transferred from overcrowded island camps.
“It will be withdrawn. Considering there is a general understanding that is going against it, I think we have to take it seriously,” he said.
“Since there is such a reaction…it [the provision] should not become the subject of discussion and monopolize [the debate] and possibly sidetrack the important legislative changes in the penal code,” he said.
The bill brought forward by the Justice Ministry foresees tougher penalties for migrant trafficking, rape and child abuse, as well as the tripling of prison terms for those found guilty of trafficking undocumented migrants.
Convicted rapists will face at least 10 years in prison compared to the current 5-15 years.
Commenting on the announced withdrawal, Archbishop Ieronymos defended the provision, saying it aims at “protecting, in particularly troubled times, the religious sentiment of the faithful and the overriding interest of social peace and social cohesion,” describing them as rights “that cannot be trampled on by a logic of freedom of speech that includes abuse, hatred and fanaticism.”