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Cablegate: Ecumenical Patriarchate Wins Pyrric Victory In

VZCZCXRO7050
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0550 1781148
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271148Z JUN 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7205
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 6759
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA PRIORITY 2317

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 000550

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM TU
SUBJECT: ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE WINS PYRRIC VICTORY IN
YARGITAY RULING


Sensitive but Unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary and comment. On June 26 the Turkish Higher
Court of Appeals (Yargitay) upheld a local Istanbul court
decision to acquit 12 members of the Holy Synod of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate on the charge of "illegal obstruction
of religious service." In rendering this decision the court
reiterated the Government of Turkey (GOT) position that the
patriarchate is not ecumenical in nature. The case, stemming
from intra-Orthodox tensions, offered Kemalist judicial
officials a ready opportunity to reiterate the GOT's stance
regarding the patriarchate's constrained authority in Turkey.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) On June 26, in reviewing a decision made by the
Third Fatih Penal Court, the Turkish Higher Court of Appeal
(Yargitay) argued that the patriarchate was allowed to remain
in Istanbul, pursuant to the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, on the
condition that its authority would be limited to the Greek
minority in Turkey. The court determined that: "It is not
acceptable that a sovereign country implements different laws
for a minority living on its land and grants some privileges
that are not granted even to the members of the majority as
it would clearly be against the equality principle mentioned
in Article 10 of the Constitution." In rendering its
decision to uphold the acquittal of the synod members on
charges of obstructing religious service, the appellate court
stressed that the patriarchate was subject to Turkish law (a
statement patriarchate officials would not contest.)

3. (SBU) The case arose in September 2003 when the Fatih
Public Prosecutor brought a case against the Ecumenical
Patriarchate based on complaints related to the defrocking of
a Bulgarian Orthodox priest. According to patriarchate
officials, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church placed St. Stephen's
Church in Istanbul under the spiritual jurisdiction of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1945. The two churches had been
in schism prior to that decision. As symbolic recognition of
this spiritual jurisdiction, Bulgarian Orthodox priests are
required to commemorate His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew during each service. The Ecumenical Patriarchate
defrocked Konstantin Kostoff, a Bulgarian Orthodox priest,
for disobedience to the Ecumenical Patriarch because he
refused to make this symbolic statement. According to
patriarchate officials, Kostoff felt that the Ecumenical
Patriarch was attempting the "Hellenize" him and had been
reprimanded numerous times prior to being defrocked. Kostoff
has now reportedly affiliated himself with the extremely
small Turkish Orthodox Church, an early Republican creation
of the Turkish state.

4. (SBU) Kostoff continued to perform religious services
despite his conflict with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The
local court found that, because Kostoff continued to perform
religious functions, his freedom of religion had not been
violated. Had Kostoff ceased to work as a priest following
his defrocking the court may have found in his favor. The
Yargitay held that the synod decision to defrock Kostoff
could not be legally justified; however, the court also
stated the defrocking did not rise to the level of a
violation of Kostoff's freedom of religion.

5. (SBU) Comment. Tensions within Turkey's minority
religious communities provide opportunities, such as this
case, for the judiciary to use the legal system to reiterate
Kemalist constraints upon minority religious expression. The
Yargitay decision does not alter current GOT policy regarding
the status of the patriarchate, but the decision may
complicate a future government decision to recognize the
ecumenical nature of the patriarchate. End Comment.


JONES

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