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Top court finds rights violation in terror conviction of association member

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the conviction of a man on terrorism charges over the alleged links of an association he’s a member of to a terrorist organization violated his right to organize, Habertürk news website reported on Monday.

The Malatya branch head of the Society Association (Toplum-Der), who is identified only by the initials C.A. and was arrested on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, was sentenced to more than six years in prison by the Malatya 3rd High Criminal Court and released pending appeal in February 2015, Habertürk said, adding that the appeals court upheld his sentence in November 2018.

His conviction was based on Toplum-Der’s alleged links to the Kurdistan Islamic Movement.

C.A. then submitted an individual application to the Constitutional Court in early 2019, which on Monday ruled that his conviction violated his right to organize, according to Habertürk.

The court stated that the applicant “has not been involved in any acts of violence” and that the association’s ties to a terrorist organization “could not be shown.”

The top court ordered the Turkish government to pay C.A. TL 13,500 ($719) in non-pecuniary damages and sent a copy of the decision to Malatya 3rd High Criminal Court for retrial.

The Constitutional Court on Friday announced a similar ruling in the case of Bilal Celalettin Şaşmaz, a teacher who was convicted on charges of membership in a terrorist organization over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The court ruled that his conviction violated his rights to respect for private life and to organize, underlining that it was only made possible by the local court’s “unpredictably expansive interpretation” of the crime Şaşmaz is accused of.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

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