ECtHR Decides Arslan v. Turkey, the Aczimendi Religious Clothing Case

In a decision of 23 February 2010, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Turkey in the case of Ahmet Arslan and Others.  The case deals with the 1997 criminal conviction of 127 Turkish citizens, members of the religious order Aczimendi tarikatÿ, who were arrested in October 1996 while, wearing their distinctive religious clothing, they toured the streets of Ankara following a religious ceremony held at the Kocatepe Mosque. They later appeared similarly dressed in accordance with their group’s dress code in proceedings brought against them for breach of Turkish anti-terrorism legislation. They were convicted for a breach both of the law on the wearing of headgear and of the rules on the wearing of certain garments, specifically religious garments, in public other than for religious ceremonies.  By a vote of six votes to one, the European Court has now found the conviction to be a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention, holding that the Turkish ruling was not based upon legitimate aims of protection of public safety and protection of the rights and freedoms of others but solely upon a reference to legal provisions, disputing that the conviction was in conformity with the law.