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Appeals Court Says Refusal to New Batumi Mosque Construction “Discriminatory”

The Kutaisi Court of Appeals upheld today the Batumi City Court’s ruling of 2019 which annulled the refusal by the Batumi City Hall to permit building a mosque as “discriminatory.”

Both judicial instances refused to grant the request of the “New Mosque Building Fund in Batumi,” the appellant, to directly order the City Hall to issue a first stage building permit, however, returning instead the case to the city authorities for reconsideration.

“This is a very important ruling by national courts, acknowledging year-long discriminatory practices to restrict the freedom of the Muslim community and creating legal preconditions for the remedy of their rights and dignity,” said Social Justice Center (formerly EMC), a Georgian CSO which represented the appellants in courts, along with Tolerance and Diversity Institute, another local watchdog.

The CSO, however, called it senseless to send the case back to authorities for reconsideration, since “the two court instances established discriminatory treatment” toward the Muslim community by the authorities.

Backhground

The local initiative group filed a lawsuit in 2017 after the Batumi City Hall refused to grant the new Mosque construction permit on the land plot which the Fund had purchased through donations. The Social Justice Center said the purchase was preceded by continuous ignorance on part of the authorities to allocate a territory to the local Muslim community to build a house of worship.

The claimants were requesting to annul the decision, order the City Hall to issue a first stage building permit, and identify discrimination on religious grounds for eradicating its consequences. According to the watchdog, the first instance court back then in 2019 found discrimination on religious grounds, it did not however directly order the city authorities to grant the permission. The Batumi City Hall then challenged the ruling in the Kutaisi Court of Appeals.

The plans of building a mosque in Batumi, which is met by fierce opposition from some of the groups in Georgia, have been postponed several times in the last few years. In August 2012, prior to assuming power, Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of the current ruling Georgian Dream party, said in Batumi that the GD would tackle “this painful and ticklish issue” openly and transparently immediately after coming into power.

Tornike Rizhvadze, incumbent Head of Government of Adjara Autonomous Republic, said in 2018 upon assuming the role that “the position of our team and the government is that it has to be built with Georgian money and we will spare no efforts for that purpose.”

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