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Cablegate: Amnesty International Sues Local Government Over

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DE RUEHIT #0556 1791522
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P 281522Z JUN 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7212
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA PRIORITY 2319

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000556

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV TU
SUBJECT: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SUES LOCAL GOVERNMENT OVER
FROZEN BANK ACCOUNT


Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary. Amnesty International's (AI) Turkey branch
filed civil cases against two local government authorities,
the Beyoglu District Governor's office and the Istanbul
Governor's office, for failing to respond to queries related
to the January seizure of 75,000 YTL (approx 57,000 dollars)
held in AI's local bank account. AI officials told us that
they still have not been officially notified of the
justification for the decision to freeze the accounts.
Although Turkish law stipulates that all organizations must
receive permission from the local authorities to conduct
fundraising, AI claims this requirement is not uniformly
applied. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Director of the Amnesty International (AI)
Turkey office told us that they were not given prior
notification of a January decision by the Istanbul Governor's
office to freeze the organization's bank accounts. Their
bank was reluctant to provide them with details on the freeze
order, beyond indicating that the basic charge was
"unauthorized fund raising." AI applied to the governor's
office to learn the justification for the decision, but
according to AI received no response, despite a legal
requirement for a response to be given within 60 days of the
application. In mid-May AI filed suit in a local
administrative court requesting a stop-action decision as
well as compensation for their loss.

3. (SBU) Immediately following their application to the
court, AI was fined for "unauthorized fund raising" by the
Beyoglu District Governor's office. According to AI, the
official document they were given by the district governor's
office indicated they had 15 days to appeal the fine and
directed them to apply to the Court of First Instance.
However, the AI lawyer informed them that the appeal period
was only 7 days and that they must apply to a different
administrative court. AI applied to both courts within the 7
day window. The Court of First Instance refused to hear the
case. The case remains open at the administrative court. AI
officials refused to speculate whether the incorrect
instructions were intentional, but indicated that the action
was not a sign of "good will."

4. (SBU) AI officials told us that they received
authorization to function in 2002 and had not experienced any
problems with local government since that time. The Turkish
Law on Fund Raising requires official authorization for fund
raising by any organization that is not already listed by the
Ministry of Interior as "an organization working for the
public good." Membership fees and donations to associations
do not fit the definition of fund raising.

5. (SBU) AI officials speculate that complaints they filed
against police harassment and detention of AI members
involved in a street campaign may have prompted the freezing
of the bank accounts as well as the fine. They claim that
the fund-raising activities they engaged in are common and
that they have been singled out for harassment by the
authorities. They further argue that only 1,200 YTL (less
than USD 1,000) of the 75,000 YTL (approx USD 57,000) in
their accounts was raised by the methods in question - online
credit card payments and direct donations on the street - and
that "it is unfair that they seized all 75,000."

6. (SBU) Comment: We have no way of knowing what caused the
governor's office to issue the freeze order for AI's account
and no way to substantiate AI's claim that their complaints
about police mistreatment prompted retaliation by the
governor's office. However, in Turkey governors and deputy
governors are Ministry of Interior appointees not elected
officials. Similarly police officers are central government
(Ministry of Interior) employees not local or city employees.
We will continue to monitor this case. End Comment.
JONES

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