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Romania: Court set for judgement over dismissal of civil servant blamed for “outing” Orthodox Church patriarch

Tomorrow, Strasbourg judges will announce their decision in a case stemming from allegations that a Romanian Orthodox Church official was a gay Communist era police agent.

The European Court of Human Rights’ judgement in the case Catalan v. Romania (no. 13003/04) will be published on 9 January.

The applicant, Gabriel Catalan, is a Romanian national who was born in 1970 and lives in Bucharest.

The case concerns the dismissal of Catalan from the civil service for publishing certain information in the press.

On 1 September 2000, Catalan was recruited to a position of adviser in the Archives Department by the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (the “CNSAS”), the Securitate being the former political police under the communist regime.

On 15 September 2000, he signed a confidentiality agreement.

On 22 March 2001 the national daily Libertatea published an article signed by Catalan’s brother, entitled “In his youth, T. [the patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church then in office] was probably gay”.

A byline at the top of the page read: “The archives of the former Securitate accuse the head of the Orthodox Church of ‘unnatural practices’ and collaboration with the former political police.”

The article reproduced, among other things, facsimile extracts from two unpublished documents from 1949 and 1957 in the Securitate archives: an internal summary note stating that T. had been a member of the “Legion” (an anti-Semitic fascist movement between the two world wars) and a document containing the transcript of an interview between a Securitate officer and an informer who recounted that T. was gay.

The article explained that these documents had been made available to the newspaper by Catalan, in his capacity as historian.

On 22 March 2001, in the morning, the CNSAS issued a press release in which it stated that it disapproved of Catalan’s allegations. The latter was then invited by his superiors to explain the circumstances of the publication. They wanted to know, in particular, in what capacity he had communicated this information to the press, how he had gained access to the material, and his opinion as to whether he had complied with the applicable legislation – but he refused to answer.

In addition, he was summoned by the CNSAS Disciplinary Panel, which dismissed him for misconduct, finding that he had undermined the prestige and authority of the CNSAS.

That decision took effect on 26 March 2001.

Catalan unsuccessfully challenged his dismissal in the Bucharest Court of  Appeal and his appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice was dismissed in June 2003.

After his dismissal, Catalan became a teacher in the national education system and continued to publish articles in the press.

Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Catalan complains about his dismissal on account of the opinions he expressed in the newspaper article of 22 March 2001.

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