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Official: Ritual circumcision legal in Berlin

A top state official says infant male circumcision for religious reasons is legal in Berlin, making the capital the first of Germany's 16 states to specify that the ritual followed by Jews and Muslims shouldn't be considered a crime.

State Justice minister Thomas Heilmann's announcement Wednesday came after Berlin's Jewish Hospital asked for clarification following a June ruling by a regional court in Cologne.

That ruling said circumcision amounted to causing criminal bodily harm to a child. The court decision didn't amount to a ban on the procedure and wasn't binding for other courts, but it raised fears among Jews and Muslims of possible prosecutions.

The federal government is drafting new legislation clarifying the issue, but Heilmann says he felt it necessary to allay fears in this "difficult transitional period."