10/18/2010, 00.00
TURKEY
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Government set to handover Buyukada orphanage to Patriarchate of Constantinople

by NAT da Polis
For the first time in the history of the Republic of Turkey, the state is set to return property seized after the Act of 1936 to religious foundation. News of the decision of the Directorate of Religious Foundations leaked by Haberturk, following a ruling by the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The centre-right newspaper Habeturk (turkish News), with a circulation of 200,000 copies, has broke news of the imminent restoration of a site on the island of Principe (Buyukada) to the Ecumenical Patriarchate (with subsequent official registration of deeds in the name of the Patriarchate).

According to Haberturk, which boasts a circulation of 200 thousand copies, the General Directorate of Religious Foundations has decided to proceed with registration of the orphanage in the name of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in lines with the ruling of the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which in June finally recognized the orphanage as belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The same Directorate of Religious Foundations, according to Haberturk, which met immediately after the ruling of the Court, had initially expressed its opposition to the registration of deeds to property under the name of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and proposed the transcription of these deeds under the generic name of the boys orphanage on the island of Principe (Buyukada), a final attempt to avoid the legal recognition of the Phanar.

But after Ankara’s final condemnation the Strasbourg court, sent a note to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to express its determination to see the sentence implemented to the letter. In this way, according to the same newspaper, for the first time in the history of the Republic of Turkey the return of property belonging to a religious minority will take place.

Diplomatic sources quoted by Haberturk comment on the news, saying that this decision, taken against its will by the Directorate of Religious Foundations, will open "a can of worms”, as it will bring to the fore the issue of the return of about 23 buildings of great value currently in its possession (with hundreds of others already sold to third parties) seized after the 1936 Law. That law banned religious foundations from owning property. It will also precipitate the debate on the legal status of all religious minorities. This is the perfect occasion, it is noted in the diplomatic circles, to show how sincere the new Turkish establishment intentions are after its undisputed triumph of the referendum on Sept. 12, that saw it win freedom to manoeuvre as it wants.

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