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European court rules Turkey violated freedoms of church group

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that Turkey violated the right to freedom of association by refusing to recognizing a religious group, euronews reported on Tuesday.

In 2004 Turkish nationals Erkin Altınkaynak and five others were denied the right to legally register their religious organization, Tükiye Yedincigün Adventistleri Vakfı (Seventh-day Adventists Foundation), in İstanbul.

Their request was rejected on the grounds that the objective of the organization was to meet the religious needs of people embracing the faith of the Seventh-day Adventists and that this contravened provisions of the Turkish Civil Code that prohibit foundations whose purpose is to support members of a particular community.

This rejection was upheld in a further judgment, but in 2011 Altınkaynak asked religious liberty group ADF International for legal support, who then brought it to the ECtHR, claiming their right to freedom of expression, religion and peaceful assembly was being violated.

On Tuesday the case reached its conclusion, with the court deciding that Turkey had violated the right to freedom of association by denying the church recognition.

Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for ADF International, who represented the applicants in the case, said, “In its ruling, the European Court of Human Rights established today, yet again, that everyone has the right to choose their religion and to express it publicly and privately.

“This includes the freedom to do so in community with others. In its judgment today, the Court has clearly recognized that the approach taken by the Turkish officials and courts fell short of the standard set out in the Convention. Religious minorities in Turkey must have the right to freely practice their religion as much as any other person.”

Turkey was ordered to pay compensation of around 9,000 euros to the group in the ECtHR ruling.

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