Buddhist prisoner awarded 2,500 for prison failing to provide vegetarian meals

By Matthew Day, The Telegraph, Dec 8, 2010

Warsaw, Poland -- The European Court of Human Rights has ordered the Polish prison service to pay a Buddhist prisoner 3,000 euros (£2,500) in compensation for failing to provide him with vegetarian meals.

In its ruling the Strasbourg-based court said that by serving meat with his meals the service had violated the religious freedom of convicted rapist, 45-year-old Janusz Jakobski.

The Polish prisoner had complained to the court that as a convert to Buddhism he required a strict vegetarian diet, but the prison had refused to provide it.

He also claimed that the authorities had interpreted his refusal to eat meat as a form or rebellion and had punished him with 14 days in solitary confinement, and that the only time he managed to get meat-free meals was for three months owing to the recommendation of a dermatologist.

In response the prison service said that it had doubts over the sincerity of Jakobski's claims.

"We are not entirely inclined to believe that he is sincere, and his demands were not related to a desire to annoy the prison service and the justice system," said Captain Artur Bojanowicz, a prison service spokesman, adding that convict had previously claimed to be an ardent Catholic and fought to have a cross in cell.

The captain explained that while the prison service could provide some special meals, it lacked the resources to deal with all the dietary requests of prisoners.