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Turkish LGBT activists await ruling on closure of legal group

Henrietta Ronson April 28, 2009
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Turkey’s leading gay rights group Lambda Istanbul will soon hear whether a local court ruling will uphold a Supreme Court decision to safeguard its freedom.

The case will reopen this Thursday.

Lambda Istanbul gained legal status in April 2006. However, on June 9th, 2006, there was an official demand to ban the society on the grounds that it violated Turkish laws on morality and families.

Despite this, Istanbul’s prosecution office reached a decision in February 2007 to allow the group to continue its operation. Consequently, the Governor’s Office appealed this decision.

On 29 May 2008, the 3rd Civil Court of Beyogla of First Istance ignored an expert’s report and dissolved the association on the grounds that it interfered with “general morals” and “Turkish family values”. Luckily, the 7th Judicial Office of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned this ruling on 25 November 2008 but released a six-page decree containing detrimental connotations limiting the freedom of LBGT individuals in the future.

While the Court of Appeals ruled that “sexual identity and orientation are facts that people do not choose of free will, but that stem from birth or upbringing and a person has no control over”, it also stated in its decision that “the dissolution of the defendant association could still be demanded, if it would act counter to its charter, in the ways of encouraging or provoking lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual behaviour or acting with the aim of spreading such sexual orientations.”

President of the Intergroup, Michael Cashman has released a statement saying: “This wording is jeopardising freedom of assembly and speech of LGBT citizens and their organisations,

“This statement is contrary to fundamental rights as we understand them in Europe. It is severely tampering rights of LGBT citizens not only freely spread but also receive information intended to them. If Turkey is to join the EU, it must treat all human beings equally and respect the rights of every citizen”.

Although it is not illegal to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans in Turkey, discrimination practices and persecutions of LGBT people are commonplace. Hate crimes have risen dramatically, both in the form of attacks and murder and campaigners say the police and government have shown little responsive action.

Related topics: Middle East

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