Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ criticized yesterday the Greek authorities of violating human rights after the recent court ruling against Ahmet Mete, the elected mufti of the country's Muslim minority, and an imam, Erkan Azizoğlu, to seven months in prison, after they led a religious funeral ceremony for a soldier killed in an accident last year.
Mete and Azizoğlu had led the funeral prayer for the soldier last year, when the appointed mufti was present at the ceremony. Greek authorities had accused Mete and Azizoğlu of seizing an official position and of stopping the religious ceremony.
"They do not allow a Muslim brother of ours to lead a funeral prayer for their co-religionist, despite the Laussane Treaty [giving right to individuals to have a funeral ceremony held based on their desired religion]," Bozdağ said during an event in Istanbul."Where is religious freedom?" Bozdağ questioned, criticizing Greek authorities for their intolerance toward the religious freedoms of the country's Muslim Turkish minority.
The two clerics told Anadolu Agency that they will appeal the court ruling, which will be implemented if they involve in any crimes in the next three years.
Greek courts had previously issued a similar ruling on a similar incident against the elected Mufti Mehmet Emin Ağa and his assistant Imam İbrahim Şerif, however, the European Court of Human Rights had ruled against the Greek court's decision and fined the Greek authorities.
Greece appoints religious leaders of the Western Thrace's Turkish minority community, however, the Turkish Muslim minority, opposing such a practice, elects their own religious leader.
Ankara said the Greek government has not allowed Muslim foundations to elect their operating boards since 1967 and has levied huge taxes on those foundations' properties, effectively preventing the Turkish minority from using them as they please.
The community of Western Thrace Turks is estimated to have between 60,000 and 150,000 members. They are a remnant of the Muslim Turkish population that once spread across the former Ottoman Empire.The Greek government classifies its Turkish population as "Greek Muslims." Greek authorities prohibit the use of the word "Turkish" in organization names and several minority groups have been closed down for using the term.