Individual Application 103/19

Press Release concerning the Judgment Finding a Violation of the Freedom of Association due to the Applicant’s Conviction on the Ground of His Affiliation with a Legal Association

On 9 October 2019, the First Section of the Constitutional Court found a violation of the freedom of association safeguarded by Article 33 of the Constitution in the individual application lodged by Ahmet  Urhan (no. 2014/13961).

    The Facts

    The incumbent chief public prosecutor’s office initiated an investigation against certain individuals including the applicant for their alleged membership of a terrorist organization [Marxist Leninist Communist Party (the MLKP)]. The applicant taken into custody within the scope of this investigation was released four days later. The chief public prosecutor indicted him for being a membership of the said terrorist organization. He was convicted by the assize court at the end of the proceedings. The applicant appealed against that decision; however, it was upheld by the Court of Cassation.    

    The Applicant’s Allegations

    The applicant maintained that his conviction for membership of a terrorist organization solely on the ground of his link with an association, namely the Socialist Youth Association (“the SGD”), which was established in accordance with the laws and maintaining its activities within a legal framework as well as of his lawful participation in a meeting was in breach of the freedom of association. 

    The Court’s Assessment

    In the present case, the incumbent court’s relying on the applicant’s activities -which indeed fell into the scope of the freedom of association- as sole evidence of his membership of a terrorist organization undoubtedly constituted an interference with the freedom in question. This interference would infringe the freedom of association unless it satisfied the conditions laid down in Article 13 of the Constitution.

    At the material time it was acknowledged by the first instance court that the SGD to which the applicant was affiliated was a legal association. Referring to the police report which pointed out the SGD’s link with the terrorist organization (MLKP), the first instance court nevertheless noted that SGD was an association which indeed conducted the terrorist activities of the MLKP on a legal basis and was operating directly in line with the MLKP’s goals. However, the first instance court, in its decision, failed to make a satisfying explanation as well as to provide any relevant and sufficient ground in respect thereof.

    Besides, relying on the police report, the first instance court indicated that the terrorist organization, namely the MLKP, had performed several illegal activities through the SGD.  However, it failed to indicate any relevant evidence demonstrating that the SGD had acted in line with the MLKP’s goals; and nor was any information provided concerning the illegal activities of the SGD.

     Besides, the conviction decision did not contain any explanation as to whether the applicant was aware that the SGD was an association in support of the MLKP terrorist organization, or any assessment as to how the applicant, by being affiliated to the SGD, acted in line with the MLKP’s goals. 

     In addition, the first instance court relied, in rendering its conviction decision, on the applicant’s participation in the meetings held by those organizations. It nevertheless did not provide any explanation concerning such meetings. Nor did it accept that the impugned meetings had not been of a peaceful nature and had been held in line with the terrorist organization’s instruction and for the purpose of disseminating terrorist propaganda.

     The first instance court failed to reveal the link between the applicant’s activities falling into the ambit of his fundamental rights and the terrorist organization, thereby causing an unjust and deterrent effect on the freedom of association. In this sense, it failed to provide relevant and sufficient ground to demonstrate that the use of the applicant’s impugned acts as sole evidence in his conviction had corresponded to a pressing social need.

     The Court has accordingly concluded that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of association did not comply with the requirements of a democratic society.

    Consequently, the Court has found a violation of the freedom of association safeguarded by Article 33 of the Constitution.

This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.