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Cablegate: Thrace Court Rejects "Turkish Union of Xanthi's" Appeal For

VZCZCXRO5852
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIK #0045 2941208
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211208Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0479
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 0354
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHIK/AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI 0522

UNCLAS THESSALONIKI 000045

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SE, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL SOCI GR TU
SUBJECT: THRACE COURT REJECTS "TURKISH UNION OF XANTHI'S" APPEAL FOR
RECOGNITION

1. (U) On 30 September, the Appeals Court in Thrace rejected an
application by local Muslim community organization "Turkish
Union of Xanthi" to reverse earlier decisions by national courts
prohibiting it from being recognized and registered under that
name. The Union's appeal was based on a 27 March 2008 decision
by the European Court of Human Rights that a GoG ban on use of
the term "Turkish" violated Articles 11 (freedom of assembly and
association) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the
European Convention on Human Rights. The Appeals Court
concluded that the ECHR ruling was not binding in this case
because it focused only on the cultural activities of the
organization and did not address the Union's political
activities, which could potentially "endanger public order in
the area. "The Court also concurred with the lawyer of the
Federation of Thracian Associations Ioannis Hatziantoniou, that
Article 12 of the Union's organizational statutes, which deals
with "Monitoring of Members' Social and National Beliefs" was in
violation of Article 5 of the Greek Constitution. In reaction
to the verdict, the Union's lawyer Orhan Hajiibram commented
that the court "did not interpret accurately the ruling by the
ECHR" and Hajiibram said that he would consider the
organization's future moves, including a possible appeal to the
Supreme Court of Greece.

2. (SBU) BACKGROUND: The "Turkish Union of Xanthi" was
originally established in 1928 and operated legally under that
name until 1983, when a local Prefect decided to pursue legally
its dissolution. In 1986, the Appeals Court of Thrace ordered
the Union's dissolution on the grounds that its name violated
Lausanne Treaty provisions recognizing only a Muslim [NOTE: as
opposed to "Turkish"] minority in Thrace. The organization took
the matter to Greece's Supreme Court which decided to uphold the
original decision in 2005, thereby also violating, according to
the ECHR, Articles 6&1 (fair hearing within a reasonable time)
of the European Convention on Human Rights. As noted above, in
a 27 March 2008 ruling, the ECHR found that these court
decisions contravened the Union's right to freedom of assembly
and association under the European Convention, specifically
noting that even if the aim of the organization was to promote
the idea of a Turkish minority in Thrace, this did not
constitute a threat to Greek national security and that Greek
courts retained the ability to order the dissolution of the
organization if members resorted to unconstitutional means to
pursue their alleged goals.

3. (SBU) COMMENT: The appeals court decision was announced
just days prior to national parliamentary elections and thus
elicited minimal public response. At this time, it is unclear
whether the Union will pursue further national or European legal
remedies. In addition to continuing the unresolved issues of
freedom of association and freedom of religion associated with
this case, the appeals court's decision to act in contravention
of the ECHR ruling sets an important and potentially dangerous
precedent. Post will continue to monitor developments in the
case and the impact of this ruling on minority organizations in
Thrace. END COMMENT

KING

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