The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has today issued a stark reminder to the Turkish government that freedom of expression and freedom of association are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, which Turkey has ratified.

Lluis Maria de Puig expressed his “profound concern” after the banning of Turkey’s leading gay rights association, Lambda Istanbul, by a court.

“The arguments put forward by the prosecutor, reportedly leading to the closure of the association Lambda Istanbul, whose activities were held to infringe the laws on public morality, are puzzling to me,” said Mr de Puig, who is a Spanish Socialist.

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 successfully argued 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.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of association are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, which Turkey has ratified as a member of the Council of Europe,” said Mr de Puig.

Turkey was a founder member of the Council of Europe in 1949.

“Thus any person, whether lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, has the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, without discrimination. It rests with the authorities to ensure that everyone can exercise these rights,” he said.

The 47-member Council of Europe predates the European Union.

It promotes and protects democracy, educational and sporting co-operation and created the European Court of Human Rights.

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.

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