(Cologne Regional Court, 20 April 2007/A.Savin)

Jewish and Muslim groups protested after a German court banned the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons in the first ruling of its kind in the country.

The court in the western city of Cologne handed down the decision on Tuesday in the case of a doctor prosecuted for circumcising a four-year-old Muslim boy who had to be treated two days later for post-operative bleeding.

It ruled involuntary religious circumcision should be made illegal because it could inflict serious bodily harm on people who had not consented to it.

However the ruling, which applies only to the Cologne area, said boys who consciously decided to be circumcised could have the operation. No age restriction was given, or any more specific details.

The doctor, who was prosecuted after the hospital doctor who treated the boy for bleeding called police, was acquitted as there was no law banning religious circumcision at the time.