The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on June 20 that the Turkish government must pay compensation amounting to 54,000 euros to an Alevi
foundation on the grounds of religious discrimination.
The case arose after a cultural center of the “Cumhuriyetçi Eğitim Ve Kültür Merkezi Vakfı” (Foundation for Republican Education and Culture), which runs a number of cemevis in Turkey, requested exemption from electricity bills in 2006, in line with the Turkish law exempting places of worships from paying electricity bills.
A district court in Istanbul dismissed the foundation’s claims, refusing to pay Yenibosna center’s unpaid bills that amounted to 668,012.13 Turkish Liras (around 290,000 euros).
The foundation then took its complaint to the European Court of Human Rights on May 7, 2010, stating that although the electricity bills of places of worship are usually paid by the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), the foundation had been deprived of this privilege as Turkey refuses to recognize cemevis as places of worship.
In its principal judgment of Dec. 2, 2014, the ECHR pointed out that “the Alevis’ free exercise of the right to freedom of religion was protected under Article 9 of the Convention” and that “the situation of the applicant foundation was similar to that of other religious communities.”
The court further noted that Turkish law reserved the exemption from payment of electricity bills to recognized places of worship, and that excluding cemevis from the benefit of that status introduced discrimination on the ground of religion.
In another decision handed down on June 20, the ECHR ruled that the conviction of a Turkish man for criticizing a civil servant in a letter amounted to a violation of the right to his freedom of expression.
The case concerned the criminal conviction of accountant Ali Çetin, sentenced for insulting a civil servant in the capital Ankara
in a letter relating to a professional conflict.
In 2008 Çetin was sentenced by an Ankara
Criminal Court to seven days’ in jail and ordered him to pay a judicial fine of 164 euros for “insulting a civil servant.”
The prison sentence was subsequently commuted to a fine and Çetin was ultimately ordered to pay a fine amounting to 195 euros.