A leading gay rights organisation has been ordered to dissolve itself by a court in Turkey.

A department of the Istanbul Governor’s office responsible for non-governmental organisations alleged that the group, Lambda Istanbul, violates Turkish laws on morality.

They claimed that Lambda violates both the Penal Code, as an association in violation of “law and morals,” and Article 41 of the Turkish constitution, which is concerned with “the peace and welfare of the family.”

Lambda Istanbul was founded in 1993 and registered as an association in May 2006.

The city government of Isatabnul claimed that the association’s statute was immoral and although the prosecutor initually rejected the claims citing freedom of association.

The city government then appeal to court and there have been a number of hearings, the most recent today in the Beyoglu 3rd Civil Court of First Instance.

The group said in a statement: “The way we see this process is that LGBT organizations that currently exist either in practice or as registered entities in Turkey are trying to be pushed out of the legal domain.

“Instead of accepting their existence and protecting their basic rights, the state authorities choose to condemn LGBT people, by depriving them of their right to association.”

Lambda Istanbul will appeal the decision at the Court of Appeal. They are the first gay rights group to be closed by any member or candidate member of the European Union.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement:

“A Beyoglu court today ordered the dissolution of Lambda Istanbul in the ongoing case brought against them.

“An HRW representative was at the court and witnessed the hearing.

“Lambda will take the case to the Court of Appeal (Yargitay) but it represents sustained, prolonged, and legally indefensible harassment of a human rights organisation.”

Lambda Istanbul aims to “support all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to adopt equality as a value.

It has actively lobbied for legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Government officials have made similar legal moves to shut down other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organisations in Turkey but failed.

Kaos GL, based in Ankara, faced a demand for closure from Ankara’s deputy governor, Selahattin Ekmenoglu, in 2005. The closure petition was dismissed by prosecutors.

The chairman of Dutch gay rights group COC, Frank van Dalen, says that closing Lambda Istanbul would be against non-discriminatory guidelines issued by the European Union and against the universal right to free speech.

Turkey is a candidate country for EU membership, but concerns about human rights are one factor frustrating negotiations.

The closing of Lambda would be a devastating blow for the European LGBT emancipation movement, according to COC.

Mr Van Dalen has called on the Dutch government to not support Turkey’s application for EU membership until “basic human rights are fully respected by Turkey.”