19/09/2005 | Writer: KAOS GL

The governor of Turkey's capital Ankara has asked the courts to order the closure of a newly formed gay rights group, a move that could anger the European Union which has demanded Turkey guarantee freedom of expression.

The Ankara governor's office said the Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association, established on July 15, broke morality laws.

"The Turkish Civil Code states that associations against law and morality cannot be established. This association's title and purposes were found to be against this," said the governor's letter sent to public prosecutors and the group.

"It is not something that surprises us," the group's general secretary Ali Erol told Reuters. "The bureaucracy is disturbed by the breaking of Turkey's last taboo -- homosexuality."

Turkey has made wide-ranging reforms to bolster freedoms and prepare the country for eventual EU membership, but the bloc has said the reforms should be implemented more rigorously.

"The law enables us to set up a gay and lesbian association, but its existence in practice is not allowed," said Erol.

If the court decides to order the closure of the association, then the group will appeal the decision in Turkey and the European Court of Human Rights, said Erol.

Rights activists say that the country's laws contain too many loopholes.

Homosexuality is legal in Turkey, but there are no laws to protect gay men and lesbians from discrimination.

Gay rights activist Mehmet Tarhan was jailed last month for four years for insubordination in the army.

Reuters By Selcuk Gokoluk

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