NEWS

Second ‘Turkish’ group is banned

Confirming a previous verdict on the sensitive issue of whether the Muslim minority of northern Greece can be regarded as an ethnic group, the country’s highest civil court has ruled against a Thracian association describing itself as «Turkish.» Judiciary sources said yesterday that the Supreme Court’s Fourth Section rejected a bid by the «Cultural Association of Turkish Women in the Rhodope Prefecture» against a ruling by a Thrace appeals court that had ordered the group’s dissolution. It was the second ruling of its kind by the Supreme Court this year, after a decision in January banning a 78-year-old Muslim minority association named the «Turkish Union of Xanthi,» a Thracian town with a strong Muslim community. This verdict, with which Ankara expressed dismay, had said the union «served the interest of a foreign country in the attempt to present a Turkish minority as living in Greece.» Citing the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which provided for an exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey following the 1919-22 war, Athens holds that the 100,000-strong Muslim minority in Thrace is not ethnically Turkish. The ruling made public yesterday – which has yet to be officially announced – noted that the association’s aims were illegal and went against the Treaty of Lausanne. At the same time, it established that the lower court’s decision was in accordance with the Greek Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. According to judicial sources, Supreme Court judges found that the association «is implicitly seeking to forward Turkish ideals, in contrast to other lawful associations in Greece – of different ethnic descent, such as Armenian or Israeli – which legitimately aim to preserve their national customs, language etc.»