Turkey's highest court confirms expulsion of 9 foreign Christians for “missionary activities”

Turkey's Constitutional Court has upheld the government's decision to expel nine foreign Christians for alleged “missionary activities,” labeling them a national security risk.

The court ruled that this designation, under the controversial “N-82” immigration code, does not violate the rights of the foreigners despite their legal resident status in the country. The majority cited the “framework of the public authorities' wide discretion regarding immigration and border controls.”

“In fact, the applicants have no complaints that they encountered any obstruction or discriminatory treatment in fulfilling their religious beliefs while they lived in Turkey,” the ruling states. “In addition, it should also be taken into account that candidates Helmut Frank and Matthew Vern Black, for whom the restriction code N-82 was applied, voluntarily left Turkey, while candidates Amanda Jolyn Krause and Jeremy Lauren Lambert are still in Turkey.”

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The decision marks a significant moment in Turkey's judicial history, being the first joint decision regarding multiple N-82 code cases, according to legal group ADF International.

In statement, the religious freedom legal organization stated that the court has historically ruled unanimously against foreign Christians in similar cases. But this latest ruling showed a division among the judges, allowing dissenting opinions to surface.

President of the Constitutional Court judge Zühtü Arslan presented a different opinion. He argued that there was no evidence to suggest that the appellants' activities threatened public order or security.

“There is no concrete justification provided in either the administrative or judicial processes in the concrete case to suggest that the activities of the applicants pose a threat to public order or security,” Arslan stated. “On the contrary, it is impossible to categorically and abstractly look at the “missionary” activity directed at the candidates as a threat to public order or security.”

Arslan refuted the claim of the majority that “it is clear that there was no interference with the religious freedom of the candidates.”

“Basically, it is understood from the statements made both in the “Events and Facts” section of the decision … and under the heading “Allegations of applicants and Ministerial Opinion” … that the restriction code N-82 was applied to the applicants because of their missionary activities,” Arslan wrote. “It is beyond explanation that this constitutes an interference with the religious freedom of the applicants.”

Since 2018, around 185 foreign Protestant ministers have been deported or banned from re-entering Turkey, often without clear justification or access to the intelligence reports used against them, according to ADF International.

“The government's discriminatory targeting of Christian religious workers in Turkey, all of whom have lived peacefully in Turkey for many years, constitutes a clear violation of both the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Agreements to which Turkey is a party,” Kelsey said. Zorzi, director of advocacy for global religious freedom at ADF International.

She said the country is making systematic efforts to suppress Christian beliefs, noting an increase in foreign Christians considered threats to national security every year.

The affected individuals, part of a larger group of more than 30 foreign Christians tagged with the N-82 code, were engaged in religious work across Turkey. This ruling follows several individual cases that have reached the Constitutional Court, where this is the first collective judgment made by the plenary session of the court.

Orhan Kemal Cengiz, one of the lawyers representing the candidates, pointed out the contradictions in the decision of the majority and the lack of evidence supporting the expulsion.

“The opinion of the Court, as described by the dissenting judges, is full of contradictions. Despite the clear evidence that these foreign individuals were expelled for their alleged missionary activities, the majority of the Court did not see any violations of religious freedom,” Cengiz noted.

Can Kurtulan, another lawyer, discussed the implications for religious freedom in Turkey.

“With this decision, the prevailing local jurisprudence that 'missionary activities fall within the scope of freedom of religion and thought but may be limited within legal limits' has been effectively overturned,” he said.

The decision also underscores a worrying trend in Turkey, where nationalism and Islamization pose increasing challenges to religious minorities, particularly the Christian community, which numbers about 170,000 in a predominantly Muslim population of 83 million, ADF International said.

Turkey is a party to the Lausanne Peace Treaty, which recognizes Jews, Orthodox Greeks and Armenians, but not Protestants.

Source: www.christianpost.com

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