(Application no. 32186/02)
13 July 2006
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Agga v. Greece (no 3),
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr L. Loucaides,
Mr C.L. Rozakis,
Mrs F. Tulkens,
Mrs E. Steiner,
Mr K. Hajiyev,
Mr D. Spielmann,
Mr S.E. Jebens, judges,
and Mr S. Nielsen, Section Regitrar,
Having deliberated in private on 22 June 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
A. Arguments of the parties
B. The Court’s assessment
1. Existence of an interference
2. “Prescribed by law”
3. Legitimate aim
4. “Necessary in a democratic society”
“(...) the domestic courts that convicted the applicant did not mention in their decisions any specific acts by the applicant with a view to producing legal effects. The domestic courts convicted the applicant on the mere ground that he had issued messages of religious content and that he had signed them as the Mufti of Xanthi. Moreover, it has not been disputed that the applicant had the support of at least part of the Muslim community in Xanthi. However, in the Court’s view, punishing a person for merely presenting himself as the religious leader of a group that willingly followed him can hardly be considered compatible with the demands of religious pluralism in a democratic society. (...) the Court recalls that there is no indication that the applicant attempted at any time to exercise the judicial and administrative functions for which the legislation on the muftis and other ministers of “known religions” makes provision. As for the rest, the Court does not consider that, in democratic societies, the State needs to take measures to ensure that religious communities remain or are brought under a unified leadership. (...) apart from a general reference to the creation of tension, the Government did not make any allusion to disturbances among the Muslims in Xanthi that had actually been or could have been caused by the existence of two religious leaders. Moreover, the Court considers that nothing was adduced that could warrant qualifying the risk of tension between the Muslims and Christians or between Greece and Turkey as anything more than a very remote possibility” (Agga v. Greece (no. 2), judgment cited above, §§ 58-60).
There has, therefore, been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 10 OF THE CONVENTION
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
B. Costs and expenses
(a) EUR 1,619.95 for fees and expenses in the proceedings before the domestic courts;
(b) EUR 2,500 for various expenses (travelling expenses and accommodation) and
(c) EUR 1,000 for fee in the proceedings before the Court.
The applicant provided invoices solely for the domestic proceedings.
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
2. Holds that no separate issue arises under Article 10 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final according to Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 1,620 (one thousand six hundred and twenty euros) for costs and expenses, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
4. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 13 July 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Søren Nielsen Loukis Loucaides