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EU laws don’t cover sharia divorce, bloc’s top court rules

The EU has no say over the validity of private divorces settled under Islamic law, or sharia, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled Wednesday.

In 2013, the husband sought a divorce before a religious court in Syria, via a representative there.

The divorce was granted by the religious court, based on the husband’s declaration of intent only.

The wife acknowledged the divorce in writing, but contested it later, when her husband applied for recognition of the divorce in Germany.

The court, in the southern German city of Munich, referred the issue to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for help in interpreting EU legislation.

EU rules apply only to divorces pronounced by a national court or a public authority, and not to private divorces by a religious court, the Luxembourg-based judges found.

They concluded that the case would have to be resolved on the basis of German laws.

The verdict comes in spite of the advice of an advocate general at the ECJ, who had recommended in September that the divorce should not be recognised.

The Munich court must now take a final decision on the issue.


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