Turkey guilty over headscarf MP stripped of seat: court

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found Turkey guilty of breaching the right to free elections Thursday for stripping an elected member of his seat.

Turkey guilty over headscarf MP stripped of seat: court
Bekir Sobaci was elected to the Turkish Parliament in 1999 representing the Party of Virtue.

The party was dissolved in June 2001 after some of its members complained that the ban on wearing Islamic headscarves, under the principle of secularity enshrined in the Turkish constitution, amounted to persecution.

The former parliamentarian and three other members of the party were banned from belonging to another political party for five years, the court noted.

The claimant stood for Parliament again in November 2002 as an independent, but failed to be elected, the ruling stated.

In its ruling, the court found unanimously that there has been a violation of article three of the first protocol - the right to free elections - of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court found that whilst the former parliamentarian had a duty to ultimately preserve the secular nature of the Turkish state, it had not been a proportional action to deprive him of his seat.

"The forfeiture of a parliamentary mandate is an extremely grave sanction," the judges said.

The court also observed that other members of the Party of Virtue, including the president and vice-president, were in a comparable situation to the plaintiff, but did not suffer any sanction.

In a separate case, the European court announced Thursday it had ruled against Turkey in the case of a young man allegedly shot in the head by a police officer after he was arrested during a protest.

It awarded 15,000 euros ($22,000) in damages to the victim's brother, a Turkish national who now lives in France, as well as 3,000 euros in costs and expenses.

The victim, Vedathan Gulsenoglu, was a 19-year-old university student at the time of the incident in 1994, the court said.

He was arrested when he took part in a demonstration in Istanbul in which he allegedly threw Molotov cocktails at a bank, then was shot in the back of the head at the police station. He was taken to hospital, where he died.

The officer involved was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but the conviction was later thrown out on procedural grounds. He was later convicted again, but that decision was also quashed.

His case is "apparently still pending," the European court ruling said.

Turkish Daily News

Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Aralık 2007, 11:56