High Court rules in favour of new charity chair after election dispute

The former chair of the London Alevi Cultural Centre & Cemevi claimed that the election, a win for Israfil Erbil, had been run under the wrong constitution

Israfil Erbil
Israfil Erbil

The High Court has ruled that a charity acted within its constitution after its former chair disputed the validity of the election that led to the appointment of his successor.

Huseyin Cifci, former chair of the cultural charity the London Alevi Cultural Centre & Cemevi, which holds religious services and provides education for the Alevi community in Hackney, lost his position when Israfil Erbil was elected ahead of him as the charity’s chair in May 2009. Several other trustees were appointed at the same time. 

But Cifci disagreed with the outcome and called an emergency general meeting of the charity to try to have Erbil’s appointment annulled, according to Ali Has of Morgan Has Solicitors, who represented Erbil in the High Court.

After this move failed, Cifci claimed the charity had used the wrong constitution to elect Erbil, said Has. According to Has, Cifci claimed the charity had used the 1994 constitution to elect Erbil, even though a new constitution had been drawn up in 2006.

When a complaint was made to the Charity Commission, the regulator said it could not rule on the validity of the constitution and authorised the charity to take the dispute to court, a commission spokeswoman said.

A High Court hearing took place between 23 and 27 July last year to establish which constitution was correct.

The court's ruling, published in November, found that the 1994 constitution was the correct constitution and ruled that the appointment of Erbil and the other newly elected trustees was legal, Erbil told Third Sector.

According to Erbil, Cifci and his team claimed during the trial that all decisions made by Erbil and the new trustees were invalid because they were using the wrong constitution. "They insisted another constitution had been established in 2006 – but it wasn’t true," said Erbil. "We’d never seen that constitution before we received the files for court."

Cifci also claimed that Erbil and the other newly elected trustees were not the right people to run the charity, according to Erbil. "He was saying that we were political people and he was part of a traditional group," said Erbil.

At its annual general meeting on 27 January, the charity elected a new board and Erbil was re-elected as the charity’s chair.

Third Sector was unable to contact Cifci for comment.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: "The charity was, in the past, subject to an internal dispute. This rested in part on confusion as to the charity’s correct governing document.

"A court case in November settled the issue regarding the governing document, enabling fresh trustee elections to take place under the authority of an existing order of the commission. Since then, an election has taken place and a new committee has been appointed. The dispute is now resolved and our case is closed."

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