LISBON — Portugal has started granting citizenship rights to the descendants of Jews it persecuted five centuries ago.
The Justice Ministry said Tuesday that on Oct. 2 it approved the first three of more than 200 applications it has received so far. The other applications are still being processed following a law that began in March.
Seeking to make amends for past wrongdoing, both Portugal and Spain adopted laws this year allowing citizenship for descendants of Sephardic Jews — the term commonly used for those who once lived in the Iberian peninsula — persecuted during the Inquisition.
Alfonso Paredes Henriquez, a Panama-based real estate developer, said he and his brother were among Portugal’s successful applicants. They are entitled to a passport and the right to work and live in the 28-nation European Union.
Paredes Henriquez said he initially intended to request Spanish citizenship but switched to Portugal after Spain’s delays in enacting its law, which was finally approved in June.
The Jewish Community of Oporto in northern Portugal, which is one of the organizations vetting applications, said Paredes Henriquez is a descendant of Spanish and Portuguese Jews. His ancestors were Rabbi Eliau Abraham Lopez, the great Sephardic rabbi of the Spanish-Portuguese community in Curacao and of Spanish origin, and his wife Rachel Nunes da Fonseca, of Portuguese origin.
The Community said Tuesday it has issued certificates for Jews from 23 countries, with two-thirds of them for Sephardic Jews from Turkey.