By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
Turkey on Thursday criticized Greece's increased pressure on the elected muftis of the Muslim Turkish minority of Western Thrace.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Greece, which did not recognize the elected muftis, had recently increased the level of pressure against them through legal investigations.
The statement said the Greek Parliament adopted a law on Tuesday, according to which powers emanating from the Sharia Law became optional for the Turkish minority of Western Thrace and made it possible for the Civil Code to be used in case of a disagreement among members of the Turkish community.
"The Greek authorities have not consulted with the minority's elected Muftis on this law just as they have not done with any other laws that fall under their [the Muftis’] jurisdiction," the statement added.
It said that this legislation was drafted due to an application lodged with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by a member of the minority.
"We expect Greece to implement this and other verdicts of the ECHR about the minority in a non-discriminative manner and thus to register the minority NGOs, and not to use their titles as a pretext for not doing so," the statement stressed.
Greece had closed several associations in Western Thrace because they had the word "Turkish" in their names. Although the ECHR convicted Greece regarding this matter, Greece does not implement the ECHR verdict on the issue.
The statement said that the ECHR had in the past ruled against Greece in five different cases, which Greece had filed against the elected muftis on the ground of "usurpation of power".
"Therefore, we expect Greece to draw lessons from the past and put an end to the legal pressure imposed on the elected Muftis," the statement added.
The election of muftis by a broad number of Western Thrace Turks was debated during the parliamentary session on Tuesday, although the new law did not address the issue.
The issue was also debated when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Greece last month.
Western Thrace is home to a Muslim Turkish minority of around 150,000 people, where muftis have the jurisdiction to decide on family and inheritance matters of local Muslims.
The mufti election issue has been a chronic problem of the Muslim Turkish minority since 1991.
The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was regulated in the 1913 Treaty of Athens between Greece and the Ottoman Empire and was later included in Greek Act 2345/1920.
However, Greece annulled this law in 1991 and started appointing the muftis itself.
The majority of Muslim Turks in the cities of Komotini (Gumulcine) and Xanthi (Iskece) do not recognize the appointed muftis and elect their own instead, who are in turn not recognized by the Greek state.
In another statement on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Ministry also said, in the framework of the regular political consultations between the Turkish and Greek Foreign Ministries, talks would be held in Ankara on Friday between delegations to be led by the undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Turkey, Ambassador Umit Yalcin, and the secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Ambassador Dimitrios Paraskevopoulos.
Bilateral relations and regional and international issues will be discussed at the meeting.