Europe’s top rights court on Thursday condemned Greece for applying Islamic sharia law in an inheritance dispute involving a Greek Muslim who died leaving a civil law will.
Until last January, when the law was changed, Greece was the only European country which in some cases could force its Muslim minority to observe the tenets of sharia law.
Greek law now says that sharia law can be applied only with the consent of all concerned.
The case before the 17 judges of the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) involved a man in Thrace who died in 2008.
His civil law will left all of his estate to his wife, Chatitze Molla Sali.
But his sisters challenged the will, and were eventually awarded three-quarters of the estate under sharia law.
Sharia law was allowed in Greece under the 1920 Treaty of Sevres and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which sought to give protection to its minority Muslim community after the break-up of the Turkish empire in World War I.
“Refusing members of a religious minority the right to voluntarily opt for and benefit from ordinary law amounted not only to discriminatory treatment but also to a breach of a right of cardinal importance in the field of protection of minorities, that is to say the right to free self-identification,” the court said in a unanimous ruling.
“The treaties of Sevres and Lausanne did not impose any obligation on Greece to apply sharia law,” the court said.
The Greek Justice Ministry later commented that the case “involves old legislation” and is “not attributable to the current government.” It noted that the court had praised the passing of the new law on January 15.