Charges filed against rabbi in Germany over circumcision

Wed Aug 22, 2012 3:02pm EDT
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By Chris Cottrell

BERLIN (Reuters) - An unnamed doctor in Germany has filed charges against a rabbi for performing ritual circumcisions on infant boys, a prosecutor said on Wednesday, two months after a court in Cologne angered Jews and Muslims by banning the practice.

In a move likely to compound Jewish leaders' fears that the Jewish way of life in Germany is under threat, a doctor in the German state of Hesse filed a charge against David Goldberg, a Jewish spiritual leader in the Bavarian town of Hof.

The office of Gerhard Schmitt, the local chief public prosecutor, will review the charges and decide whether to open a case against the rabbi. Schmitt said it was too early to say whether the case had merit or not.

"Charges have been filed but no investigation is yet underway," Schmitt said, refusing to reveal who filed the charges, citing standard legal practice. "It really has to be examined in detail - this is a very, very complex issue."

The complaint comes after judges in the western city of Cologne banned the practice on June 26, triggering a fiery public debate and a parliamentary resolution calling for a law formally legalizing religious circumcision to be approved.

"This criminal complaint is an attack not only on one rabbi but against the entire Jewish people," Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, two officials with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, said in a statement.

German politicians have overwhelmingly condemned the earlier court ruling, underscoring sensitivity about any suggestion of intolerance in a country still haunted by its Nazi past.

"We cannot put Germany's reputation as a land of religious tolerance at risk," Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Wednesday while travelling in Lichtenstein. "Jewish and Muslim traditions must not be restricted by legal uncertainties."   Continued...