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Istanbul gay rights group wins appeal against closure under morality laws

Tony Grew January 21, 2009

Turkey’s leading gay rights group will be allowed to continue to operate after a Supreme Court ruling.

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

In May 2008 a court in Islanbul agreed that Lambda breaches 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.”

The court ordered Lambda Istanbul to close.

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

Yesterday the organisation learnt that the Supreme Court of Appeals “rejected the local court’s decision on the grounds that reference to LGBT people in the name and the statute of the association did not constitute opposition to Turkish moral values,” said Amnesty International.

“The Court’s judgment also recognised the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to form associations.

“The case will now go back to the local court in Istanbul, which is expected to uphold the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision.”

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.

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

After Lambda Istanbul was banned, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 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.

Lissy Gröner, Vice-President of the European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, said:

“If Turkey is to enter the EU, it should not forget that human rights are a part of acquis communautaire (EU law).

“We, the politicians in the European Parliament, will now pay a special attention to the respect of human rights of LGBT people in Turkey.”

More: Europe

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