By Mehmet Hatipoglu
Ibrahim Serif, the elected mufti of Komotini (Gumulcine) in northeastern Greece, has been sued for usurping authority, according to judicial sources.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Rhodope province prosecutor’s office filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Serif, who is charged with usurping authority by attending a religious ceremony in 2016.
The first hearing will be on May 8, the sources added.
Serif, who is the elected mufti of Komotini -- one of the three major cities of the Western Thrace region -- told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the actual situation was very different from the claims of the prosecution.
He attended the event over the request of his fellow Muslims, Serif said.
"I’m charged with organizing a religious event, but as religious authorities, we need to provide religious services to those requesting help," he said.
Serif said he had previously won a case in 1999 over the same charge against Greece after appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, adding that ever since there had been no criminal charges brought against him until a year ago.
“But in the past year, I have been summoned to the prosecutor’s office a total of seven times,” he said.
Serif was elected mufti of Komotini in 1990 by the local Muslim Turkish community.
The elected muftis of Xanthi Mehmet Emin Aga and Ahmet Mete were also previously convicted by Greek courts for usurping authority.
The Western Thrace region of Greece 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 the 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 not recognized by the Greek state.
*Fatih Hafiz Mehmet contributed to this report from Ankara.