Catholic Urges Release of Orthodox Prelate in Macedonia

BRUSSELS, Belgium, AUG. 22, 2005 ( The president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community appealed for the release of the Orthodox metropolitan of Skopje, sentenced to prison for inciting ethnic violence.

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Bishop Josef Homeyer expressed doubts about the reasons for the sentence, in a letter he sent today to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, president-in-office of the European Council; to Javier Solana, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy; and to Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Enlargement.

The Orthodox archbishop, Jovan Vraniskovski of Ochrid, was imprisoned July 26 in Macedonia. He is serving a two-and-a-half-year term after his 2004 conviction for instigating ethnic, racial and religious hatred, discord and intolerance.

Bishop Homeyer urged the three leaders to make every legal effort to bring about the immediate release of Archbishop Jovan, a representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

On June 23 the Court of Appeal in Bitola upheld the archbishop’s conviction.

In his letter, Bishop Homeyer said that the statements that led to Archbishop Jovan’s conviction appeared to be covered by the freedom of religion and of expression as delineated in Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

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