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19.09.2008 - Source: US Department of State
Harassment against Jehovah's Witnesses ("International Religious Freedom Report 2008") [ID 24860]
" On July 31, 2007, the Jehovah's Witnesses received a letter of certification confirming its official registration as the "Association for the Support of Jehovah's Witnesses." However, due to their stance as conscientious objectors to military service, they continued to face difficulties. According to Jehovah's Witnesses officials, harassment of their members included arrests, court hearings, verbal and physical abuse, sleep deprivation, strip searches, and psychiatric evaluations. During the reporting period, there were three pending applications on the issue with the ECHR. Additionally, four Kingdom Halls continued to appeal court decisions restricting worship due to zoning laws.
On July 31, 2007, the Istanbul Governorship Associations Directorate confirmed that the charter for the Association for the Support of Jehovah's Witnesses was registered and granted legal recognition. Despite the new legal status, local government officials cited obscure laws or zoning regulations as a way to deny members permission to worship at a particular site, rendering the new legal recognition of limited use."
11.03.2008 - Source: US Department of State
New legal recognition of limited use (as of 2007) ("Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2007") [ID 22897]
"On July 31, the Istanbul Governorship Associations Directorate confirmed that the charter for the "Association for the Support of Jehovah's Witnesses" was registered and granted legal recognition. Despite the new legal status, local government officials cited obscure laws or zoning regulations as a way to deny members permission to worship at a particular site, rendering the new legal recognition of limited use. Following the killing of Hrant Dink, the Jehovah's Witnesses faced an increase in threats and harassment. In one case, after a local Fetiye newspaper published photographs and a negative article on the local Jehovah's Witnesses, unknown perpetrators defaced the houses and businesses of the members with graffiti."
06.11.2007 - Source: European Commission
Court of Cassation confirmed acquittal decision ("Turkey 2007 Progress Report [SEC(2007) 1436]") [ID 22363]
"There were positive developments as regards the registration of religious associations. In the closure case against the Association for Supporting Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose statute includes explicitly religious objectives, the Court of Cassation confirmed the acquittal decision. Representatives of the Association consider that their Association will have legal personality, i.e. that it will now be in a position to own property, rent or purchase meeting places, accept donations, and defend their legal interests in court. Another similar case is ongoing, following a first instance acquittal decision."
06.03.2007 - Source: US Department of State
Situation of Jehovah's Witnesses (as of 2006) ("Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006") [ID 19902]
"Members of Jehovah's Witnesses reported continuing official harassment of their worship services because they are not members of an officially recognized religion. Police arrested 25-year-old member Feti Demirtas and sent him to prison on nine occasions for conscientiously objecting to military service, as his religion requires. According to Jehovah's Witness officials, such harassment which was not limited to Feti, included: arrests, court hearings, verbal abuse, kicks to the head and body, slaps in the face, choking, sleep deprivation, being handcuffed to doors and beds, being strip searched, and psychiatric evaluations.
In mid-2005 the Witnesses appealed an administrative court decision that prohibited them from worshipping in their hall in Akcay in Bursa province. On December 12, after the court had taken no action on the case, the Witnesses filed a demand to expedite a hearing. There was no decision on that motion at year's end.
Jehovah's Witnesses continued to engage in a legal battle over their efforts to form an association. On April 28, an Istanbul court rejected a lawsuit to cancel the Witnesses' newly formed association. Pending the prosecutor's subsequent appeal, the Witnesses may not conduct meetings as an association. On December 12, the Witnesses filed a request to expedite the case with the Court of Appeals. The request was pending at year's end."
15.09.2006 - Source: US Department of State
Jehovah's Witnesses reported continuing official harassment of their worship services ("International Religious Freedom Report 2006") [ID 18517]
"Jehovah's Witnesses reported continuing official harassment of their worship services because they were not members of an officially recognized religion. Jehovah's Witnesses continued to engage in a legal battle over their efforts to form an association."
29.05.2006 - Source: Schweizerische Flüchtlingshilfe
Detention of Jehovah's Witnesses for holding a worship in September 2005 ("Türkei; Zur aktuellen Situation – Mai 2006") [ID 19122]
"Obwohl Zeugen Jehovas seit 1994 in der Türkei nicht mehr für die Ausübung ihres Glaubens – ausser sie verweigern den Kriegsdienst – bestraft werden, wurden im September 2005 Zeugen Jehovas festgenommen, weil sie einen Gottesdienst abhielten."
15.09.2004 - Source: US Department of State
Charges against Jehovah's Witnesses ("International Religious Freedom Report 2004") [#26281], [ID 13774]
"“An 2001 circular from the Ministry of Interior encouraged some provincial governors to use existing laws, such as those regulating meetings, religious building zoning, and education, to regulate gatherings of "Protestants, Baha'is, Jehovah's Witnesses, Believers in Christ" within their provinces, while "bearing in mind" those provisions of the law that provide for freedom of religion. According to one Protestant group, as well as reports by the media and other observers, local authorities asked more than a dozen churches in Istanbul and elsewhere to close. Other churches experienced increased police harassment following the publication of the circular. Several Protestant groups that have engaged in religious activities, including worship, Bible study, and religious education, had charges filed against them for zoning violations.” (Section 2)
“In April 2003, Mersin police arrested 12 members of Jehovah's Witnesses for allegedly holding an illegal meeting in a private home after being notified in 2002 that they would no longer be allowed to use a rented Kingdom Hall due to zoning laws. When the group planned in May 2003 to hold services in an old Kingdom Hall, police reportedly threatened to close down the Hall if it was used, then attended the next 17 meetings at the Hall, taking notes. In September, a court acquitted the 12 members of Jehovah's Witnesses. On several occasions during the period covered by this report, members of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mersin and Istanbul were fined for conducting religious meetings without permission.” (Section 2)
“Jehovah's Witnesses reported increasing official harassment over meeting for worship due to the fact that they are not members of an officially recognized religion. Members also have reported some difficulties in claiming conscientious objector status and exemption from required military service. Jehovah's Witnesses who are conscripted into the military refuse to take the military oath or carry weapons and have faced arrest and detention as a result; generally the detention lasts for about a month, after which the individual is released pending trial.” (Section 2)
“During 2003, Bulent Bozdogen, a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, was reportedly tried on two separate occasions and sentenced to a total of 3 months in military prison on charges related to his refusal to serve in the military. During the period, he was reportedly beaten and mistreated numerous times.” (Section 2)"
15.04.2002 - Source: Council of the European Union
Jehovah's witnesses are de facto accepted as separate religious group ("Note from the Netherlands delegation to CIREA: Official general report on Turkey, January 2002" Rf. 7838/02") [#7991], [ID 13775]
"There are some 1 500 Jehovah's witnesses in Turkey. They live mainly in the cities of Istanbul and Izmir. As a result of around fifty court cases which they have won over recent decades, Jehovah's witnesses are now de facto accepted as a separate religious group. The group is nevertheless hampered in its activities by the local authorities from time to time. For instance, local authorities in the cities of Mersin and Tethiye have forbidden Jehovah's witnesses to hire rooms for meetings. An appeal has been lodged with the courts against these decisions.
Individual Jehovah's witnesses are occasionally prosecuted for proselytising – which is a duty for Jehovah's witnesses according to their beliefs. There have been no convictions so far but there are cases in which Jehovah's witnesses have spent periods in custody.
According to a spokesman for the Jehovah's witnesses, there have recently been much fewer problems with the performance of military service. In general it is accepted that Jehovah's witnesses may not use weapons because of their faith. They are allotted administrative or back-up tasks. There are individual cases of harassment, according to the spokesman."