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ECtHR faults Turkey for fine imposed on former Amnesty Turkey chair in 2008

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Tuesday ruled against Turkey in a case concerning an administrative fine imposed on a former Amnesty International Turkey chair for alleged irregularities related to receiving funds from abroad in 2008, BBC Turkish reported.

Professor Levent Korkut had been ordered to pay a fine of nearly 5,283 euros ($5,798) for failing in 2006 and 2007 to comply with a statutory provision requiring associations to declare funds received from abroad to the authorities before making use of them.

In the case brought by two applicants, the Turkish section of the London-based Amnesty International and its former chair Korkut, the court on Tuesday held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 6 (right to a fair trial/lack of reasoning) and Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European court stated that the domestic courts had not given sufficient reasons for their decisions in the case, relying solely on the findings of an inspection report prepared by the authorities and not responding to the arguments raised by the applicants.

Korkut had previously submitted a letter before the assize court that was signed by the Directorate of Associations of the İstanbul Governor’s Office and explained that funds transferred from an organization’s international headquarters to its Turkish branch and used to cover current expenditures weren’t normally subject to the declaration requirement, according to the law.

However, the domestic courts dismissed Korkut’s claims, and a final decision in the case was rendered in 2009 by the assize court, which upheld the lower court’s judgment without ruling on the arguments put forward by Korkut, who in the meantime, in February 2008, had paid the fine in full.

The court added that the applicants had been unable to foresee at the relevant time whether their declarations regarding the organization’s funds would be regarded as out of time and result in an administrative fine, thus concluding that the interference with the applicants’ right to freedom of association had not been prescribed by law at the relevant time.

The court ordered Turkey to pay the applicants jointly 5,283 euros in pecuniary damages, 2,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 5,000 euros for costs and expenses.

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