11/29/2007, 00.00
TURKEY
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The Supreme Court in Strasburg allows Patriarchs’ appeal for Buyukada orphanage

Given that there are no more Turkish orphans of Orthodox religion, Ankara cancelled the property rights of the building, the world’s largest wooden structure, despite it being recognised by the Sultan. If the appeal is granted then it could have positive consequences for all religious minorities.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The European Supreme Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg has allowed recourse to appeal for the Ecumenical Patriarchate against the Turkish States illegal occupation of the Orphanage on the prince Buyukada islands, in Marmara Sea, claiming ownership.

It is the world’s largest wooden structure and though it has lain completely abandoned since 1962, its majesty still dominates the panorama of the Island.  It was built in 1898 by a French company and was destined for the use of a luxury hotel and casino, but the then Sultan Abdulhamid II did not grant the licence.  It was then bought over by the Turkish banker of Greek origins Zafiris, who donated it to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to transform it into an Orthodox orphanage and school.  The donation received the Sultan’s blessing who sanctioned the move by living formal ownership to the Patriarchate in a donation act of 150 gold lires for charity.

The orphanage was used as such from 1903 to 1964, when the last student completed his final studies.

The lack of Turkish orthodox orphans has been exploited by the Turkish authorities, who tank to art. 1 of law 2762 of the Religious Foundations directive, took away the administration of the building from the island’s minority Orthodox in 1964 when the last student graduated, claiming that the primary purpose of its use had become invalid and therefore they also took over ownership.

The appeal currently going through the Strasbourg Supreme Court, the first of its kind, denounces the subtraction of the building by the Turkish authorities.  A previous appeal which went through the Turkish Circuit Courts in 1997 failed.  This is why the Supreme Court in Strasbourg has agreed to hear the Patriarchates appeal.

Now there is great interest ahead of the Strasbourg Court sentence, which, if positive, could have highly beneficial results on the juridical status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey and other religious minorities, given that a juridical status has only been recently recognised for the Council of Rabbis in Turkey.

The sentence may also help the Turkish government accelerate reforms countering the ultranationalists, who are pitted against any change or opening, linked to the now outdated concept of reciprocity. (NT).

 

PHOTO: Nikos Manginas

 

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