AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF


                      Application No. 30985/96
                      by Glavno Myuftiistvo (Chief Mufti Office),
                      Fikri HASAN, Fehmi SYULEIMAN, and Ismail CHAUSH
                      against Bulgaria


      The European Commission of Human Rights sitting in private on
8 September 1997, the following members being present:

           Mr.   S. TRECHSEL, President
           Mrs.  G.H. THUNE
           Mrs.  J. LIDDY
           MM.   E. BUSUTTIL
                 A.S. GÖZÜBÜYÜK
                 A. WEITZEL
                 J.-C. SOYER
                 H. DANELIUS
                 F. MARTINEZ
                 C.L. ROZAKIS
                 L. LOUCAIDES
                 J.-C. GEUS
                 M.P. PELLONPÄÄ
                 M.A. NOWICKI
                 I. CABRAL BARRETO
                 B. CONFORTI
                 N. BRATZA
                 I. BÉKÉS
                 J. MUCHA
                 D. SVÁBY
                 G. RESS
                 A. PERENIC
                 C. BÎRSAN
                 P. LORENZEN
                 K. HERNDL
                 E. BIELIUNAS
                 E.A. ALKEMA
           Mrs.  M. HION
           MM.   R. NICOLINI
                 A. ARABADJIEV

           Mr.   H.C. KRÜGER, Secretary to the Commission

      Having regard to Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

      Having regard to the application introduced on 22 January 1996
by Glavno Myuftiistvo (Chief Mufti Office), Fikri HASAN, Fehmi
SYULEIMAN, and Ismail CHAUSH against Bulgaria and registered on
11 April 1996 under file No. 30985/96;

      Having regard to the reports provided for in Rule 47 of the Rules
of Procedure of the Commission;

      Having deliberated;

      Decides as follows:

THE FACTS

      The application is brought by the Chief Mufti Office (Glavno
muftiistvo) of the Bulgarian Muslims ("the first applicant"), and by
three individuals.  Mr. Fikri Sali Hasan ("the second applicant") was
elected Chief Mufti (Glaven muftia) of the Bulgarian Muslims in 1992,
the fact whether he still holds this position being disputed.  He is
a Bulgarian national born in 1963 and residing in Sofia.  He claims
that he represents the first applicant in his capacity of Chief Mufti.

      The other two individual applicants are Mr. Fehmi Iavash
Syuleiman ("the third applicant"), a Bulgarian national born in 1940
and residing in Sofia, a Muslim believer, and  Mr. Ismail Ahmed Chaush
("the fourth applicant"), a Bulgarian national born in 1940, an islamic
teacher residing in Sofia.

      Before the Commission all applicants are represented by Mr. Yonko
Grozev, a lawyer practising in Sofia.

      The facts of the case as submitted by the applicants may be
summarised as follows.

A.    Particular circumstances of the case

Background of the case

      Following the beginning of the democratisation process in
Bulgaria at the end of 1989, some Muslim believers and activists of the
Muslim religion in the country sought to replace the leadership of
their religious organisation.  They considered that Mr. N.G., who was
the Chief Mufti at that time, and the members of the Supreme Spiritual
Council (Vissh duhoven savet) had collaborated with the communist
regime  between 1984 and 1989, when it forcefully imposed Bulgarian
names on ethnic Turks.  The old leadership, with Mr. N.G. as Chief
Mufti of the Bulgarian Muslims, also had its supporters.  This
situation caused divisions and internal conflict within the Muslim
community in Bulgaria.

      On 10 February 1992 the Directorate of Religious Denominations
(Direktzia po veroizpovedaniata), a governmental agency at the Council
of Ministers, acting pursuant to Section 12 of the Religious
Denominations Act (Zakon za izpovedaniata), as in force at the time,
declared that the election of Mr. N.G. as Chief Mufti of the Muslims
in Bulgaria had been null and void and proclaimed his removal from this
position.  On 21 February 1992 the Directorate registered a three-
member Interim Spiritual Council as a temporary governing body of the
Muslims' religious organisation, until the election of a permanent new
leadership by a national conference of all Muslims.

      Following these events Mr. N.G., who claimed that he remained the
Chief Mufti of the Bulgarian Muslims, challenged the decision of 10
February 1992 before the Supreme Court.  On 28 April 1992 the Supreme
Court rejected his appeal.  The Court found that the decision of the
Directorate of Religious Denominations was not subject to judicial
appeal.  The ensuing petition for review, submitted by Mr. N.G. against
the Supreme Court's decision, was examined by a five-member Chamber of
the Supreme Court.  On 7 April 1993 the Chamber dismissed the petition.
While confirming the rejection of Mr. N.G.'s appeal, the Chamber also
discussed the merits of the appeal.  It found inter alia that the
Directorate's decision to declare Mr. N.G.'s election null and void had
been within the competence of the Directorate under Section 12 of the
Religious Denominations Act.  Insofar as the impugned decision had also
proclaimed "the removal" of Mr. N.G. from his position of Chief Mufti,
this had been beyond the competence of the Directorate.  However, it
was unnecessary to declare the nullity of this part of the
Directorate's decision as in any event it had no legal consequences.

      The National Conference of Muslims, organised by the interim
leadership, took place on 19 September 1992.  It elected the second
applicant as Chief Mufti of the Bulgarian Muslims, eight members of the
Supreme Spiritual Council, and also approved a new Statute of the
Religious Organisation of the Muslims in Bulgaria (Ustav za duhovnoto
ustroistvo i upravlenie na miusiulmanite v Balgaria).  On 1 October
1992 the Directorate of Religious Denominations registered the Statute
and the new leadership pursuant to Sections 6 and 16 of the Religious
Denominations Act.

      Events of 1994 and at the beginning of 1995

      While the leadership dispute between Mr. N.G. and the second
applicant continued, the official position of the Directorate of
Religious Denominations, throughout 1993 and at least in the first half
of 1994, remained that the second applicant was the legitimate Chief
Mufti of the Bulgarian Muslims.

      On 29 July 1994 the Directorate of Religious Denominations wrote
a letter to the second applicant urging him to organise a national
conference of all Muslims to solve certain problems arising from
irregularities in the election of local religious leaders, in the local
chapters.  The irregularities in question apparently concerned alleged
inconsistencies with the internal statute of the Muslim religious
organisation, and not breaches of the law.

      On 2 November 1994 the supporters of Mr. N.G. held a national
conference.  The conference proclaimed itself the legitimate
representative of the Muslim believers, elected an alternative
leadership and adopted a statute.  After the conference the newly
elected rival leaders applied for registration at the Directorate of
Religious Denominations, claiming that they were the legitimate
leadership of the Muslims in Bulgaria.

      On 3 January 1995 the Supreme Spiritual Council presided over by
the second applicant decided to convene a national conference on
28 January 1995.

      On 16 January 1995 the Directorate of Religious Denominations
wrote a letter to the second applicant in his capacity of Chief Mufti.
The letter stated inter alia that under Section 9 of the Religious
Denominations Act every religious denomination in the country was under
the obligation to have a leadership for contacts with the State.
However, because of the irregularities concerning the local chapters
of the Muslim religious organisation, its leadership was not
functioning in conformity with the statute of the Muslim religious
organisation.  The letter stated further:

<Translation>

     "As the Directorate of Religious Denominations was
concerned with these irregularities as early as in the middle of
1994, it repeatedly ... urged the rapid resolution of the
problems ... Unfortunately no specific measures had been
undertaken ...  As a result the conflicts in the religious
community deepened, and the discontent among the Muslims rose,
which led to the holding of an extraordinary national conference
on 2 November 1994.  This brought to light a new problem,
related to the shortcomings of the statute of the Muslim
religious community...  [The statute] does not clarify the
procedure for convening a national conference ...  The issues
concerning the participants, and the manner in which they are
determined ..., are not regulated.

     Therefore, for the executive branch of the State it becomes
legally impossible to decide whether the national conference is
in conformity with the statute [of the Muslim religion] and,
accordingly, whether its decisions are valid.  These decisions,
quite understandably, could be challenged by part of the Muslims
in Bulgaria.  Any other national conference, except if it were
organised by a joint committee [of the rival leaderships], would
raise the same problem.  Moreover, the decision of 3 January
1995 of the Supreme Spiritual Council to hold an extraordinary
national conference on 28 January 1995 is signed only by six
legitimate members of the Spiritual Council... [and] ... cannot
be regarded as being in conformity with the statute.

     The Directorate of Religious Denominations cannot disregard
the findings of the [Chamber of the] Supreme Court in its
decision  of 7 [April] 1993.  It is mentioned therein that the
Directorate had acted beyond its competence when removing Mr.
N.G. from his position of Chief Mufti and that the decision of
the Directorate of 10 February 1992 could not have legal
consequences.

     Extremely worried as regards the current situation and
deeply concerned over the well-being of the Muslims in Bulgaria,
the Directorate of Religious Denominations supports the opinion
of the Chief Mufti, [the second applicant], that it is not
advisable to hurry with the holding of an extraordinary
conference before overcoming the conflicts in the religious
community ...

     Firmly convinced that the disputed questions in the
religious community should not be decided by administrative
means by the executive branch of the State ... the Directorate
appeals to you to make proof of good will and reach consensus
for the holding of a united conference ..."

      On 27 January 1995 the Supreme Spiritual Council presided over
by the second applicant announced that it had postponed the holding of
the national conference to 6 March 1995.

      Removal of the second applicant from his position of Chief Mufti

      On 22 February 1995 the Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Mr. Shivarov issued Decree No. P-12 which read as follows:

<Translation>

      "Based on Decree KV-15 of 6 February 1995 of the Council of
Ministers in conjunction with Section 6 of the Religious
Denominations Act, I approve the statute of the Muslim religion
in Bulgaria, based in Sofia."

      The statute of the Muslim religion in Bulgaria mentioned in the
decree was apparently the one adopted at the rival national conference,
organised by Mr. N.G. and held on 2 November 1994.  Decree KV-15,
referred to in the decision, apparently concerned the authorisation
given by the Council of Ministers to its Deputy Prime Minister, as
required under Section 6 of the Religious Denominations Act (see below
Relevant domestic law).

      On 23 February 1995 the Directorate of Religious Denominations
at the Council of Ministers issued a decision which stated that based
on Sections 6, 9 and 16 of the Religious Denominations Act and Decree
P-12 of the Deputy Prime Minister, it had registered a new leadership
of the Bulgarian Muslim community.  The leadership thus registered
included Mr. N.G. as president of the Supreme Spiritual Council and,
apparently, those elected at the conference of 2 November 1994.

      Neither Decree P-12, nor the decision of the Directorate of
Religious Denominations gave any reasons, nor any explanation as
regards the procedure followed.  The decisions were not formally served
on the applicants, who learned about them from the press.

      On 27 February 1995 the newly registered leadership of the Muslim
community accompanied by private security guards entered the
headquarters of the Chief Mufti Office in Sofia, forcefully evicted the
staff working there, and occupied the building.  The applicants submit
that the police, who arrived after the surprise action, immediately
stepped in to protect the new occupants of the building.  Following the
action of 27 February 1995 the new leadership took over all documents
and assets belonging to the religious organisation of the Bulgarian
Muslims in Sofia and, in the months which followed, in various other
towns in the country.  The Directorate of Religious Denominations
allegedly sent letters to the banks where the Muslim religious
organisation had its accounts, informing them of the change of
leadership. In the following weeks several municipalities, allegedly
upon the instructions of the Directorate, registered new regional
Muftis.  Also, the staff of the Chief Mufti Office and ten islamic
teachers, the fourth applicant among them, were allegedly dismissed.
The applicants have not substantiated any further details as regards
the alleged dismissals, such as their dates, the organs who ordered
them, or the procedure followed.

      On 27 February 1995, immediately after the take-over, the second
applicant submitted to the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office (Glavna
prokuratura) a request for assistance, stating that there had been an
unlawful mob action and that the persons who occupied the building of
the Chief Mufti Office were squatters who had to be evicted.  By
decisions of 8 and 28 March 1995 the prosecution authorities refused
the request.  They found inter alia that the new occupants of the
building had legal grounds to stay there as they were duly registered
by the Directorate of Religious Denominations, and represented the
religious leadership of the Muslim community in the country.

      Appeal to the Supreme Court against Decree P-12

      On 23 March 1995, apparently in reply to a request from the
second applicant, the Directorate of Religious Denominations wrote to
him, in his capacity of a private person, a letter which stated inter
alia:

<Translation>

     "The Muslim religious community in Bulgaria ... has, in
1888, 1891, 1919, 1949, 1986, 1992 and 1995, repeatedly changed
its statute as concerns its organisational structure ..., but
never as regards its religious foundation.  Decree P-12 of
22 February 1995 ... sanctions an [organisational] change, which
the religious community itself wished to undertake ..."

      This letter was apparently the first document originating from
the competent State bodies which implied clearly that the statute of
the Muslim religious community approved by Decree P-12 had replaced the
previous statute and that the registered new leadership had replaced
the second applicant.

      On 18 April 1995 the second applicant, acting on behalf of the
Chief Mufti Office, lodged with the Supreme Court an appeal against
Decree P-12.  He stated that on its face Decree P-12 stipulated nothing
more than the registration of a new religious organisation.  However,
from the decisions and the letter of the Directorate of Religious
Denominations which had followed, it had become clear that what was
done was the replacement of the statute and the leadership of an
existing religious denomination.  Furthermore, it transpired that the
motivation behind this act had been the understanding that the Muslim
religion in Bulgaria could have only one leadership and one statute.
The State did not have the right to impose such view on the Muslims,
multiple religious organisations of one and the same religion being a
normal practice in other countries, as well as in Bulgaria.  Therefore
the Council of Ministers had acted beyond its powers.  The State
interference with the internal disputes of the religious community was
unlawful.  At the oral hearing held by the Court the second applicant
also stated that there had been an unlawful interference with the
religious liberties of the Muslims, as enshrined in the Constitution.

      The second applicant also submitted that the conference of
2 November 1994 had been organised by people outside the Muslim
religious organisation presided over by him.  Accordingly, they could
register their own religious organisation but could not claim to
replace the leadership of another.  The second applicant asked the
Court either to declare Decree P-12 null and void as contrary to the
law or to declare that it constituted a registration of a new religious
community, the existing Muslim organisation being unaffected.

      On 27 July 1995 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.  The
Court apparently accepted the locus standi of the first applicant, as
represented by the second applicant, and also found that it was
competent to examine the lawfulness of the impugned Decree P-12.

      On the merits the Court stated that under the Religious
Denominations Act the Council of Ministers enjoyed full discretion in
its decision as to whether or not to register the statute of a given
religion.  Therefore, the Court's competence was limited to an
examination of whether the impugned act had been issued by the
competent administrative organ and whether the procedural requirements
had been complied with.  In this respect Decree P-12 was lawful.

      As regards the request for interpretation of Decree P-12, it was
not open to the Court, in the framework of the particular proceedings,
to state its opinion as to whether it had the effect of creating a new
legal person, or introducing changes, and whether after this decision
there existed two parallel Muslim religious organisations.

The national conference of 6 March 1995 and the appeal to the
Supreme Court against the refusal to register its decisions

      The national conference of the Muslims in Bulgaria organised by
the second applicant took place as planned on 6 March 1995.  The
minutes of the conference establish that it was attended by 1553
persons, of whom 1188 were official delegates with voting rights.
These were representatives of eleven local chapters and of the central
leadership.  The conference adopted some amendments of the statute of
the Muslim community and elected its leadership.  The second applicant
was re-elected Chief Mufti.

      On 5 June 1995 the second applicant, acting on behalf of the
first applicant, submitted a petition to the Council of Ministers
requesting the registration of the new statute and leadership of the
Muslims in Bulgaria, as adopted by the conference of 6 March 1995.  On
6 October 1995 the second applicant submitted a second petition.
However, there was no response from the Council of Ministers.

      On an unspecified date the second applicant submitted to the
Supreme Court an appeal against the tacit refusal of the Council of
Ministers to register the decisions of the March conference.

      On 14 October 1996 the Supreme Court delivered its judgment.  The
Court noted that in 1992 the Chief Mufti Office, the first applicant,
had been duly registered as a religious denomination under Section 6
of the Religious Denominations Act and had thus become a legal person.
The Court also noted that the first applicant had not been deprived of
legal personality pursuant to Section 6 para. 2 of the same Act.
Therefore the Council of Ministers was under the obligation, pursuant
to Sections 6 and 16 of the Act, to examine a request for registration
of a new statute or of changes in the leadership in the existing
religious denomination.  As a result the Court decided that the tacit
refusal of the Council of Ministers was unlawful and ordered the
transmission of the file to the Council of Ministers, which had to
examine it.

      On 19 November 1996 Deputy Prime Minister Shivarov refused to
register the 1995 statute and leadership of the Chief Mufti Office, the
first applicant.  He wrote to the second applicant a letter stating
inter alia that the Council of Ministers had already registered "a
leadership of the Muslim community in Bulgaria", which was the
leadership elected by the November 1994 conference with Mr. N.G. as
President of the Supreme Spiritual Council.  The Deputy Prime Minister
concluded that the first applicant's request "cannot be granted as it
is clearly contrary to the provisions of the Religious Denominations
Act".

      On 5 December 1996 the second applicant, acting on behalf of the
first applicant, appealed to the Supreme Court against the refusal of
the Deputy Prime Minister.

      On 13 March 1997 the Supreme Court quashed the refusal of the
Council of Ministers to register the 1995 statute and leadership of the
first applicant.  Noting that this refusal was unlawful, the Supreme
Court also stated that it violated Section 13 of the Constitution as
it constituted "an interference and unlawful administrative
intervention into the internal organisation of [a] religious
community".  The Court ordered again the transmission of the file to
the Council of Ministers.

      In a partially dissenting opinion the minority stated that the
Supreme Court should not have returned the file, but should have
decided on the merits of the request for registration.

      On 24 March 1997 the second applicant again requested the Council
of Ministers to register the 1995 statute and leadership.

B.    Relevant domestic law and practice

1.    The Constitution of 1991.

<Translation>

Section 13

     "(1) The religions shall be free.

     (2) The religious institutions shall be separate from the
State.

     (3) Eastern Orthodox Christianity shall be considered the
traditional religion in the Republic of Bulgaria.

     (4) Religious institutions and communities, and religious
beliefs shall not be used to political ends."

Section 37

     "(1) The freedom of conscience, the freedom of thought and
the choice of religion and of religious or atheistic views shall
be inviolable.  The State shall assist in the maintenance of
tolerance and respect among the believers of different
denominations, and among believers and non-believers.

     (2)   The freedom of conscience and religion shall not be
practised to the detriment of national security, public order,
public health and morals, or of the rights and freedoms of
others."

      Decision No. 5 of the Constitutional Court of 11 June 1992
provides a legally binding interpretation of the above provisions.  It
states inter alia that the legitimate grounds for interference with
one's freedom of religion as protected thereby cannot be subject to
extensive interpretations.  An Act of Parliament can only determine the
procedure for their enforcement.

2.    The relevant provisions of the Religious Denominations Act, as
in force at the time of the events at issue, read as follows.

<Translation>

     Section 6

     "(1) A religious denomination shall be considered
recognised and shall become a legal person upon the approval of
its statute by the Council of Ministers, or by a Deputy Prime
Minister authorised for this purpose.

     (2) The Council of Ministers, or a Deputy Prime Minister
authorised for this purpose, shall revoke the recognition, by a
reasoned decision, if the activities of the religious
denomination breach the law, public order or morals."

     Section 9

     "(1) Every religious denomination shall have a leadership
accountable to the State.

     (2) The statute of the religious denomination shall
establish its governing and representative bodies and the
procedure for their election and appointment... "

     Section 16

     "(1) The national governing bodies of the religious
denominations shall register with the Directorate of Religious
Denominations at the Council of Ministers, and the local
governing bodies with the local municipalities, and shall submit
a list of the names of all members of these governing bodies".

      The Act, which has been in force since 1949 with some amendments,
also lays down other rules as regards the activities of a religious
denomination, imposes requirements as regards its clergy and empowers
the Directorate of Religious Denominations with certain control
functions.  On 11 June 1992 the Constitutional Court repealed some of
its provisions which contravened the 1991 Constitution.

      The applicants contend that as a consequence of the provisions
of Section 6 of the Act, and since there is no public register for
recognised religious denominations, in practice a religious community
can establish its existence as a legal entity only by producing a copy
of a letter or a decision to that effect, issued by the Directorate of
Religious Denominations.  The same applies to the leader of a religious
denomination when he needs to prove his powers.

3.    Under Decree No. 125 of the Council of Ministers of 6 December
1990, as amended, the competence of the Directorate of Religious
Denominations includes "contacts between the State and the religions",
assistance to central and local administrative authorities in solving
problems which involve religious matters and assistance to religious
organisations as regards education and publications.

4.    There are no procedural provisions under Bulgarian law
specifically applicable to the examination by the Council of Ministers,
or by a Deputy Prime Minister, of a petition for authorisation of a
religious denomination.  The Administrative Procedure Act (Zakon za
administrativnoto proizvodstvo), which contains a general legal regime
on the procedure for the delivery of and appeal against administrative
decisions, provides in its Section 3 that it is not applicable as
regards the Council of Ministers' decisions.

5.    Under Section 110 of the Law on Obligations and Contracts the
general limitation period for civil claims is five years.


COMPLAINTS

1.    The applicants complain under Article 9 of the Convention that
there has been an interference with their religious liberties, the
right of the believers and of the religious community to govern their
own affairs and to choose their leadership being an important part
thereof.  The applicants also invoke Article 11 of the Convention in
this respect.  Also, they complain that contrary to Article 13 of the
Convention they did not have an effective remedy.

      The applicants contend that the measures undertaken by the State
had the effect of replacing the statute and the leadership of the
Muslim religion in Bulgaria.  This was so because, following the
registration of the rival leaders by the Directorate of Religious
Denominations, no court, government body or indeed no person would
recognise the second applicant as a legitimate representative of the
Muslim religious community in Bulgaria.  Moreover, this replacement was
done through arbitrary decrees which gave no reasons and were issued
without even informing the parties concerned.  This State interference
was neither prescribed by law, nor necessary in a democratic society.
There were no clear legal grounds nor any reasonable legal criteria
on the basis of which the State could favour one wing of the divided
Muslim community to the detriment of another.  This, combined with the
unpredictable practice of the Directorate of Religious Denominations
and with the "full discretion" doctrine adopted by the Supreme Court,
amounts to complete arbitrariness.

      The applicants further submit that they were not afforded any
remedy providing at least basic procedural safeguards as regards the
interference with their right to freedom of religion.  Also, the
prosecution authorities refused to intervene following the eviction
on 27 February 1995 from the building of the Chief Mufti Office.

      As regards the effects of the Supreme Court's judgments of
14 October 1996 and 13 March 1997, the applicants contend that those
judgments did not change the situation in reality.  In any event, even
if registration is granted soon, the complaints about the events of
1995 - 1996 remain valid.

2.    The applicants complain under Article 6 of the Convention that
they did not have a hearing before a tribunal in the determination of
their civil rights and obligations.  Thus, the Supreme Court found that
it was not competent to examine the merits of Decree P-12, which in
turn was issued without observing any procedural safeguards, by a
Deputy Prime Minister.

      Among the civil rights determined by Decree P-12 and the Supreme
Court's decision were the property rights of the first applicant, the
right of the Muslim believers to association, the right of the second
applicant to hold his position of Chief Mufti, and his and the other
applicants' rights under employment contracts.  Thus, the second
applicant had an employment contract as Chief Mufti, based on his
election in 1992.  This legal basis was destroyed by the impugned
decisions, which had the effect of replacing the Muslim religious
leadership registered in 1992.  Also, many other persons working for
the Muslim religious community were dismissed by the new Chief Mufti.

3.    The applicants complain under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the
Convention that they were deprived of their possessions and under
Article 13 that they did not have an effective remedy in this respect.
The applicants submit that the possessions in question included inter
alia the ownership of belongings and documents which they have not seen
since the eviction from the premises of the Chief Mufti's Office on
27 February 1995, the first applicant's right to use these premises,
its money in bank accounts, and the other applicants' rights under
employment contracts.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

      The application was introduced on 22 January 1996 and registered
on 11 April 1996.

      On 24 February 1997 the Commission decided to communicate the
application to the respondent Government.

      On 22 April 1997 the applicants submitted additional information
on their own motion.  A copy of their submissions was transmitted to
the respondent Government.

      The time-limit for the Government's written observations expired
on 2 May 1997.  The Government have not requested its extension.  By
letter of 14 May 1997 the Government were reminded that they had not
submitted observations.  By letter of 24 June 1997 the Government were
informed that the application was being considered for examination
during the Commission's session beginning on 8 September 1997 although
no observations had been received.

THE LAW

      The applicants complain under Article 9 (Art. 9) taken alone and
in conjunction with Article 13 (Art. 9+13) of the Convention that the
impugned acts of the authorities amounted to an unlawful, arbitrary and
unjustified interference with their religious liberties and that they
did not have an effective remedy in this respect.  The applicants
invoke also Article 11 (Art. 11) of the Convention.  The applicants
further complain under  Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1) to the
Convention, taken alone and in conjunction with Article 13 (P1-1+13),
that they have been deprived of their possessions and that they did not
have an effective remedy in this respect.   They complain under Article
6 (Art. 6) of the Convention that they did not have a hearing on the
merits before a tribunal in the determination of certain civil rights
and obligations.

      The Commission notes that the Government have not submitted
written observations.

      The Commission recalls the Convention organs' case-law according
to which the parties must be invited to participate in the examination
of the facts by the Commission, though such an examination cannot be
hindered by the manner in which the parties in fact participate (cf.
mutatis mutandis, No. 8007/77, Dec. 10.7.78, D.R. 13 p. 85; cf. also
No. 22947 and 22948/93, Dec. 11.10.94, D.R. 79 p. 108).

      Having examined the applicants' complaints, the Commission finds
that they raise serious questions of fact and law which are of such
complexity that their determination should depend on an examination of
the merits.  The application cannot, therefore, be regarded as
manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27 para. 2
(Art. 27-2) of the Convention, and no other grounds for declaring it
inadmissible have been established.


      For these reasons, the Commission, by a majority,

      DECLARES THE APPLICATION ADMISSIBLE, without prejudging the
      merits.

        H.C. KRÜGER                         S. TRECHSEL
         Secretary                           President
     to the Commission                    of the Commission