A Greek court's rejection of a plea by the local Turkish community, for recognition of their association's status, dashed the hopes of the community that has repeatedly complained of discrimination over the years.
The Turkish Union of Xanthi (İTB) was founded in 1936 by ethnic Turks, who are descendants of the community living in the country's Western Thrace region since Ottoman times. Amid hostilities between Turkey and Greece, the union was banned in 1986 by authorities citing that it endangered public order.
The union has been fighting to restore its legal status since, but their latest lawsuit on the matter was rejected by a Greek court in June despite an earlier ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that stated the ban was a violation of the right to freedom of assembly and association.
Ahmet Kara, a lawyer for the union, said the latest verdict by the High Court of Thrace was "scandalous" and vowed "to continue the legal fight for the return of the formal status." İTB President Ozan Ahmetoğlu said the verdict was concerning for Greek democracy as the country has "slid into a position of a country not applying international law."
The ruling comes in the wake of a legal regulation to ensure Greece's compliance with verdicts by the ECHR.
Kara told the Anadolu Agency (AA) that the Greek court rejected the lawsuit, citing a similar case in the past. He said the verdict was issued on June 22, but they only had access to details of the verdict Monday. "To sum it up, the verdict says there has been another, rejected complaint before, but an article in Greek civil law allows multiple complaints on the same matter," he said. The lawyer said they have rejected the ruling and will continue their legal struggle. "We will send a letter to the European Council about Greece's rejection to apply the European Court of Human Rights ruling," he said.
Ahmetoğlu said the ruling disappointed the community. "Our country, Greece, is sliding into a position of a country not applying international law. This is worrying for Greek democracy. [The union] has been waiting for compliance with the European court's ruling for more than 10 years but Greek courts [have] disobeyed laws ordering compliance," he told AA.
The İTB took the case to the European Court of Human Rights in 2005 and in 2008. The European court convicted Greece of violating the European Convention on Human Rights that protects the right to freedom of assembly and association.
On the other hand, though Greece accepted the European Court of Human Rights rulings and imposed a legal regulation, opposition parties managed to pass a bill last October that enables the rejection of such rulings in cases related to "national security."