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Macedonian authorities urged to give archbishop fair trial

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.b92.net//eng/news/region.php?yyyy=2013&mm=07&dd=10&nav_id=86907 July 10, 2013 | 15:38 Macedonian authorities urged to give archbishop fair trial
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      http://www.b92.net//eng/news/region.php?yyyy=2013&mm=07&dd=10&nav_id=86907

      July 10, 2013 | 15:38
      Macedonian authorities urged to give archbishop fair trial
      Source: Tanjug

      BELGRADE -- The Conference of European Churches (CEC) has called on the
      Macedonian government and PM Nikola Gruevski to ensure a fair trial for
      Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid.

      They were also urged to release him from custody pending his trial, in
      line with the country's criminal law provisions.

      The appeal was issued at the end of the CEC General Assembly, held in
      Budapest on July 3-8, according to the website of the Serbian Orthodox
      Church (SPC).

      The CEC Assembly backed the World Council of Churches' call on the UN
      High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on
      Freedom of Religion or Belief to carefully investigate this case.

      The CEC Assembly calls on the Commissioner for Human Rights of the
      Council of Europe (CoE) and the EU Special Representative on Human
      Rights to urgently look into this case, the SPC website said.

      In particular, the CEC Assembly demands that the institutions see
      whether the detention conditions are in line with standards set out by
      the CoE, it added.

      In the appeal announcement, the CEC Assembly said that it “has learned
      with great concern about the arrest and detention of Archbishop Jovan in
      Macedonia. It is believed that his detention is a result of him
      exercising his human right of religious freedom.”

      The announcement goes on to say that “reaffirming that freedom of
      religion and belief is a fundamental right guaranteed in the Universal
      Declaration of Human rights and the European Convention on Human Rights
      to which R. Macedonia is a party.”

      Archbishop Jovan Vraniskovski has been in an investigative prison in
      Skopje since January last year, and is awaiting a retrial.

      Since 2003, Macedonian authorities have arrested Bishop Jovan
      Vraniskovski six times, on different charges, including public disorder
      when he tried to conduct a baptism ceremony in a church the Macedonian
      Orthodox Church (MPC) sees as its own.

      He has also been charged with "inciting ethnic and religious hatred” for
      having “slandered the MPC” and for alleged embezzlement of church money.

      He spent a total of almost 18 months in prison. In his last trial, in
      Veles, he was sentenced in absentia to 2.5 years in prison on charges of
      embezzlement.

      He was last arrested on December 12, 2011, upon entering Macedonia from
      Greece. He returned to the country to request a retrial, but the
      Macedonian authorities have failed in ordering it, under various pretexts.

      The MPC is canonically unrecognized, and the SPC considers it schismatic
      since it declared autocephaly unilaterally in 1967.

      The MPC has defrocked Bishop Jovan and the SPC has appointed him as
      Serbian exarch in Macedonia.

      The SPC believes Bishop Jovan is a victim of rigged political trials
      because of his being against the schism, while Amnesty International and
      Freedom House have said that he is a prisoner of conscience.
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